Community

Arkadelphia to commemorate ’97 tornado with ceremony, candlelight vigil

ARKADELPHIA — Ruggles-Wilcox Funeral Home, in conjunction with the City of Arkadelphia, is hosting an event on March 1, 2022 to recognize the 25th anniversary of the 1997 tornado which passed through Clark County, causing millions of dollars in damage. The event will feature an easel walk, remembrance ceremony and a candlelight vigil.

Murry-Ruggles Funeral Home sustained major damage from the March 1, 1997, tornado. Steve Fellers/Henderson State University Archives Digital Collection
Ruggles-Wilcox Funeral Home in 2022. Courtesy photo

The purpose of this event is to gather as a community, reflect on all that was lost and celebrate the growth of Clark County and the City of Arkadelphia since that day.

Starting at 4 p.m., the community is invited to participate in an easel walk, which will feature news articles and personal stories from Arkadelphia residents impacted by the tornado. The easel walk will be displayed inside Ruggles-Wilcox Funeral Home. The remembrance ceremony will begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Ruggles-Wilcox chapel, followed by a candlelight vigil outside the funeral home at 6:15 p.m.

“Even though it was hard and brought a lot of pain at the time, it’s important to remember things like this because it brings our community closer together and reminds us that we can rely on each other,” says Tim Wright, manager of Ruggles-Wilcox Funeral Homes. “I lost my home that day, and there are others who lost even more. But it’s part of our history, and it’s part of what makes us a strong Arkadelphia family. To try and forget it would be wrong.”

Arkadelphia residents can contribute their stories, memories or perspectives of the tornado’s impact by submitting them to ruggleswilcox.com/share-my-story.

Debbie Francis and the board members of the Clark County Historical Museum encourage community members to attend, saying it will be “a day for us to remember the victims of the devastating tornado, to express our gratitude for the unselfish acts of the first responders, and to recognize the resiliency of the citizens of Clark County.”

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