BRANDENBURG, Ky. (WDRB) -- Nearly one hundred Meade Co. residents gathered to commemorate the 40th anniversary of one of the deadliest tornadoes in American history.

Organizers say the program is to remember 31 people who died in the April 3, 1974 tornado and to remember "the recovery, rebuilding and resurrection" of the community.

First Baptist Church in Brandenburg hosted the remembrance ceremony, which began at 4 p.m. -- the hour the storm roared into town in 1974.

Participants read the names and rang a memorial bell for each person who died in the storm.

"The best story to tell is to see how we have recovered and come together to become the community we are," said Tom Bridge, a minister and former newspaper employee caught in a pickup truck during the storm.

Members of the audience clutched white carnations in memory of those who died or were hurt in the storm.

The church holding the ceremony was built on the site of the former Phillips Memorial Baptist Church, which was destroyed in the storm.

Other speakers spoke of the ferocity of the storm, which struck with little warning in a time before sophisticated weather radar and instant communication systems.

They also noted storms since, including a 2008 tornado that damaged the same part of town.

Jim Greer, county judge in 1974, recounted taking cover in the county courthouse vault, then walking out of the wrecked courthouse to townspeople running to help.

"I never had seen anything like that, and I never want to see it again," Greer said.

"We have the most bold, helpful people in Meade County. Everything you could think of was bad. People were really hurting," Greer said.

Brandenburg's recovery became a national news story.

"We were Walter Cronkite 'story one.' This is how a town comes together," said state Rep. Jeff Greer.

"We handled it, and the world got to see us handle it," Jeff Greer said. "And I know of no better place to live."

Organizers will place a wreath at the storm memorial outside the county courthouse.

A steady rain fell outside the church, punctuated with occasional slight rumbles of thunder.

"Every time a storm warning is issued, everyone remembers the tragic events of April 3rd," said storm survivor and Brandenburg mayor David Pace.

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