- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 4, 2007

ENTERPRISE, Ala. (AP) — Marshall “Mike” Chase, perched on the edge of a pile of debris in front of his crumpled home, shook his head, shrugged and waved, holding up a foiled-wrapped cheeseburger and a can of Diet Coke.

He turned down an offer of food from a man in a passing minivan — the fifth such offer in as many minutes.

“If I ate everything they brought by here, I’d blow up like a blimp,” the 75-year-old former Marine said with a chuckle.

His home of nearly 30 years was mostly destroyed when a tornado tore through his neighborhood Thursday and killed eight students in nearby Enterprise High School.

At lunchtime yesterday, a parade of vehicles made its way slowly past what was left of Mr. Chase’s house — people offering bagged lunches, coming to help clean up and haul away debris, or simply gawking at the devastation left in the wake of the storm that brought President Bush here Saturday.

Yellow police tape blocked off the high school campus and local police officers and National Guard members stood sentry, only allowing work crews through to the hardest-hit areas.

Mr. Chase estimates that about half of his belongings were lost when the tornado struck, including a shed in the back yard where he stored boxes of old photos and other irreplaceable mementos.

He was at home Thursday when he heard an announcer on TV warning Enterprise residents to take cover. He and his wife hurried to an interior hallway and shut all the doors.

“It got dark. It was just like midnight,” Mr. Chase said.

“We went in the hallway, and it was all I could do to keep the door shut. There was a loud roar and a bang, and the whole house shook.”

In the days since the storm, residents of Enterprise, a tight-knit southeast Alabama community of about 22,000, have united to help each other in any way possible, while still grieving the eight students and one senior citizen killed by the twister.

School Superintendent Jim Reese said after yesterday’s service at First Baptist Church that the constant theme for the past two days has been “what can I do to help,” with offers of aid pouring in from all over the country.

Mr. Reese received a standing ovation when the pastor, G. Lance Hogan, thanked him for his help and service to the community. During an open prayer at the end of the service, a line formed of people waiting to hug Mr. Reese, shake his hand or offer words of encouragement.

“There were just so many heroes over there at Enterprise High School: students, teachers, administrators,” Mr. Reese said. “I’ve just never been so proud of a group of people.”

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