Tag

destruction

The Curse Of The Original Southpark Mall Wal-Mart

By news, weather

As I posted about two days ago, there was a huge tornado outbreak across southeastern Virginia on Monday. Colonial Heights, although faced with an estimated $2 million in damage, faired much better than Suffolk, with $18 million in damage. The Colonial Heights tornado was confirmed by the National Weather Service as an F1 with winds of up to 112 MPH (The “F” stands for the Fujita Scale, which rates tornadoes on a scale of F0-F6) and the Suffolk tornadoes were mostly F3 intensity, with winds up to 206 MPH. The devastation was widespread down there, but remarkably no one was killed (I reported on Monday that one person was killed, but later found out, along with the news sources, that the death was unrelated to the tornado).

Now I don’t believe things can be cursed, but the Colonial Heights Wal-Mart sure has some bad luck. It’s now a Sam’s Club, but so many things happened to it as a Wal-Mart it’s almost inconceivable. There’s a theory that the place is cursed because someone was killed there in the Garden Center shortly after the place opened in late 1989 or early 1990. Shortly after, the Garden Center was flattened by either downdraft winds from a severe thunderstorm or a weak tornado. In 1993, Virginia’s most intense tornado to date (still), an F4 with winds up to 260 MPH, ripped through the store, killing two employees and a customer. Monday, the F1 tornado took the exact same directional path, 400 feet from the former Wal-Mart (now Sam’s Club). I don’t think there was any major damage to the Sam’s Club, but what is it about that store and Dimmock Square that so many tornadoes have come through? The place is a freaking tornado magnet!

Like I said, I don’t believe in curses, but check out fellow blogger Carrie had to say about the place even before Monday’s events. This is baffling to me. It’s so crazy this place could be hit by tornadoes three times when Virginia barely has measurable tornadoes, much less catastrophic ones like this.

The Curse Of The Original Southpark Wal-Mart

It was a really big deal when the Southpark Mall opened in my hometown. The land on which the mall was being built was privately owned and barren, save for a lawnmower store (guised as a shack), a few swampy plants and maybe a farm animal or two. I have vague memories of my father telling me that the landowner also had a snake farm on this property, but that seems too exotic for Small Town, Virginia. Then again, a snake farm is just the type of feature my small town would boast.

It was highly rumored (amongst the kids at my elementary school) to be the biggest mall in Virginia and possibly even the country. I should say that this is a one story mall with only 4 “major” stores: Dillard’s, Hechts, Sears and JC Penney’s. We even didn’t get a Gap, a mall staple, until 2001 years ago, and it went out of business and in its place a store called Man Alive opened. (ManAlive sells spiky high heeled sneakers and oversized “Lets Get Crunk” t-shirts and is just down the way from the kiosk that sells confederate flag and NASCAR paraphernalia.)

The mall opening was a huge event. There was a search light, balloons, free Chick-Fil-A samples and human mannequins. HumanMannequins! They posed, perfectly still, wearing parachute pants, ruffled skirts and 1988’s finest double breasted suits, for hours on end. The next day in class, no one was talking about the actual mall or the many stores contained within. We were all arguing about whether or not the human mannequins ever blinked. I don’t think they did.

Shortly after the mall opened, they built the World’s Busiest Wal-Mart adjacent to the mall (At least it was rumored to be The World’s Busiest Wal-Mart amongst the kids at my middle school). This meant we didn’t have to travel to the Bradlees in a next town over to get our B-B guns and Fisherprice record players. Unfortunately, this Wal-Mart was cursed.

In either 1989 or 1990, a man walked into the Wal-Mart and shot and killed his ex-wife, a Wal-Mart Employee, in the Garden Section. This was a really big deal because a) a man walked into the Wal-Mart and shot his ex-wife to death in the Garden Section and b) this was only the second or third murder that my home town had ever experienced. The third or fourth happened on Mall property as well. Everyone (my classmates) was talking about the Wal-Mart Garden Center ghost. I shuddered every time I drove by Wal-Mart or drank a Sam’s Choice Cola. But time passed and the Wal-Mart became busier than ever.

Shortly after that fatal shooting, in May 1990, a terrible storm brewed over the Wal-Mart, damaging the very Garden Section where that poor ex-wife was murdered. There was a continuing debate at CHHS as to whether or not it was a tornado or just a very bad storm, but it was confirmed to be an F2 tornado. Thankfully only minor injuries were sustained. Wal-Mart employees worked overtime to cover the gaping roof with a tarp and clean up all the stray kiddy pools and terra cotta shards. Within days, the Wal-Mart was back in business. But that wasn’t the end of it. Bad things come in threes.

On a Saturday afternoon, in August 1993, a huge F4 tornado, (Virginia’s worst tornado, according to the 1994 High School yearbook), plowed through that Wal-Mart and put it on the national news for its casualties (three) and injuries (198). I derived a lot of pleasure from the attention I got when my friends found out my brother was in the mall when it happened and helped people out of the rubble. Plus, just moments before the twister touch-down, my father and I had just driven past the mall on I-95 on our way to Raleigh, North Carolina to visit my aunt. And my mother was on the turnpike bridge and was gusted into another lane, just missing the path of a Mack truck. The tornado nearly leveled the Wal-Mart– along with a MJDesigns craft store, a mattress warehouse and the tree where Pocahontas saved John Smith, to name a few.

And although the second and final tornado didn’t actually happen in the Garden Section, it did blow contents of the Garden Section all over the store and into some people’s heads. Cue Twilight music.

Officials finally accepted that the Wal-Mart was cursed, because they razed the original Wal-Mart and built a new, improved and blood-freeSuper Wal-Mart about a quarter of a mile away in the new Southpark Commons development area. The new Wal-Mart is just down the street from the World’s Largest Arby’s.

Cloverfield – Review

By Uncategorized

I had somewhat of a movie marathon tonight. I got dragged to see 27 Dresses unfortunately, and while it was a good movie for a chick flick, I still don’t think it merits a review.

Anyway, later tonight I saw Cloverfield. The entire thing was shot a la Blair Witch Project, meaning camcorder-like, shaky, uncut footage, sort of like a documentary. The whole thing is shown from start to finish as being played by the Department Of Defense and the title says that it’s recovered footage from “the area formerly known as “Central Park.”” The movie starts out at a going away party with a bunch of friends. Fear quickly sets in, though, when the power goes out and a huge earthquake-like shaking occurs. Curious of what’s going on, the friends venture outside to find explosions going off everywhere. Four of them venture back to rescue a trapped friend in her high-rise apartment building. Though she’s still clinging to life, they all end up dying anyway when the Army decides to nuke the entire city, the only thing that it seems will rid the city of what I can only describe as a “raptosaurus” creature that’s just kind of flailing around, munching on a few people here and there and generally whacking its tail into skyscrapers and making a mess.

This movie leaves much to be desired. First off, where the heck did this thing come from? In War Of The Worlds, at least you know the “things” were beamed down inside a bunch of lightning bolts. The movie ends when the city is nuked, and that’s it. Although it was really well-made for what it was, some background information or at least a scene or two after the tape ends would be useful. The movie doesn’t have enough credibility or content to merit a sequel, but needed some kind, in fact any kind, of ending.

Even though the story line was good, the theme is just so overused. A monster attacking New York City? Wow, that’s completely original. Since many of you are probably enticed to see this film because of your sheer curiosity about what the creature is, I’d say save your money, because it’s nothing revolutionary.

Overall Rating:

West Chase House Fire

By Uncategorized

This house, in the West Chase subdivision just outside of Wyndham, caught on fire Monday evening. Although the woman who lived there was badly burned (after safely escaping she went back in her burning house to save the family pet), there is an amazing story behind who pulled her out. This story just reaffirms my belief that there are no coincidences in life. Everything happens for a reason. A friend of mine, Rachel Rainer, took the photo at the left that ended up in the paper. Article via the Richmond Times-Dispatch (more photos from me follow the article at the bottom).

Two Henrico County advertising executives have emerged as the Samaritans who dashed into the burning inferno of a home to try to save a woman’s life Monday night.

“Thinking about it now, it all seems like a dream. I’d never in all my life pictured myself in this sort of life-and-death situation,” said Barry Martin, the first man inside a fully engaged house fire in the 12100 block of Jamieson Place in Henrico’s Wyndham subdivision. “I never knew I had it in me.”

The victim, career nurse Jo Ann Casazza, remained in critical condition this morning in the burn unit of VCU Medical Center, in a medically induced coma.

The fate of Casazza now hinges on the skill of the doctors and nurses at the burn unit — and perhaps on a higher power.

It’s a belief in that higher power that her rescuers discovered they held in common.

Martin, founder of The Idea Center advertising agency, and Brian Gordon, who works at The Martin Agency, had never met until Monday.

Martin had set out that night with his 9-year-old daughter Mira to put his family dog down, Buddy. Gordon was just looking for a good place to have dinner with his girlfriend.

Martin and daughter Mira stopped to pray at the family church, Mount Vernon Baptist, after the dog succumbed, and set out for home. Gordon, stumped for a dining spot, paused at a Nuckols Road intersection, wondering whether he should turn right or left.

Then Mira saw a throbbing orange glow of light from the house fire. Gordon saw the image at the same time and the two vehicles changed direction and headed together to the light source.

On the lawn of the Casazza home, a crying girl and a screaming, petite woman, Casazza’s mother, were the picture of abandonment and lost hope.

“We heard that the woman had been safe but ran back in to save a family pet,” Martin said. “It was a very strange feeling after Buddy.”

Martin frantically tried to call 911 but misdialed, at first hitting 411. It was about 7:30 p.m. He had been thinking about how to pull himself out of the despair from the lost pet only to be suddenly confronted by another life-and-death situation on a grander scale.

“I just ran into the house. The front door was the only opening, and black smoke was just pouring out.”

Inside, the victim presented a daunting challenge.

Casazza was literally burning up before his eyes.

She was large, and “her skin was literally fused to a rug in the foyer,” Martin said.

When he pulled on her wrists, “the skin just pulled off. It was a gruesome thing to see.”

Suddenly, Gordon burst into the home and together the two men pulled the woman free of the house on the rug, dragging Casazza all the way to the street.

“I will never forget the people who had gathered there, and this terribly burned woman in the middle of the street on a rug with just terrible, terrible burns,” Martin said.

“I tried to comfort her: ‘Have faith. God is with you and you are going to be all right,'” he said.

“Do you mean it? Do you mean it?” Casazza answered.

Martin said he heard Casazza to describe how the family Christmas tree may have ignited. And then she was gone, carried to the hospital by rescue workers.

For more on this story, see tomorrow’s Times-Dispatch.