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Hospital Stay Proves No Handicap to This Wedding

November 17, 2002|Duncan Mansfield | Associated Press Writer

HARRIMAN, Tenn — HARRIMAN, Tenn. -- The bride wore white bandages from head to broken foot. The groom, in a donated tuxedo, stood unsteadily at her hospital bedside.

Jimmi Langley and Ronnie Ray, 18-year-old survivors of a deadly tornado that swept through their mountain community last Sunday, exchanged vows in the intensive care unit Thursday.

They tied the knot just one day late by moving the ceremony from a church to the bride's room at Roane Medical Center, where she was being treated for two broken arms, the broken foot and other injuries. Her bridegroom, with numerous cuts and bruises, arrived in a wheelchair.

"Will you love him, comfort him, honor and keep him in sickness and in health ... so long as you both shall live?" asked the Rev. Stewart Slone, pastor of their Church of God of Prophecy in Petros.

"I do," Jimmi said with a weak voice and a bright smile.

Ronnie lifted Jimmi's veil and kissed her. They celebrated with sparkling apple cider.

Their community of Mossy Grove in eastern Tennessee was one of the hardest hit when more than 70 tornadoes cut a path of destruction from Louisiana to Pennsylvania over the weekend. Thirty-six people were killed, including 17 in Tennessee.

Ronnie and Jimmi had planned to marry in church Wednesday, exactly two years after they met. Then came the tornado. The couple took shelter in his mobile home, hiding in the bathtub under heavy blankets.

"The trailer was completely annihilated," hospital spokeswoman Karen Martin said. "When they came to, they were in different places." The bathtub -- with Jimmi still in it -- landed across the street from the trailer.

The couple were reunited at the hospital.

Jimmi told nurses that she had lost her home, but she wouldn't lose her wedding. "I had to have more surgery Tuesday and we couldn't do it," she said. "I was determined not to put it off any longer."

"Whatever she wants," Ronnie told the hospital staff. "Good answer," the nurses told him.

Gifts from a wedding shower a week before, their rings, even her salon-styled fingernails were gone, so the hospital staff and local merchants pitched in.

A marriage license was secured to replace the one blown away, white netting decorated the room, and an off-the-rack wedding dress was fashioned into a one-of-a-kind hospital gown.

Her parents, his mother and two aunts attended the 15-minute ceremony. A nursing supervisor sang a cappella.

"When the nurses mentioned it, I said it sounded like a good idea," Jimmi said of her hospital-bed wedding. "I didn't expect it to be this big, though."

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