Kentucky tornado survivors find hope and refuge in the center of church

WINGO, Ky., Dec. 14 (Reuters) – Mayfield, Ky. Resident Melinda Gouin considers herself lucky, even after a huge tree torn from the ground by tornadoes destroyed her home.

Gouin was hospitalized when the tornadoes struck Friday. A day later, when she was released from hospital, she found refuge at the Way Community Center in Wingo, about 10 miles south of Mayfield, which was home to a constant stream of tornado survivors.

The deadly chain of tornadoes has killed at least 74 people in Kentucky and at least 14 elsewhere. Read more

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Gouin said she feared waking up to “hearing people screaming and babies cry and dogs barking.”

Instead, she said on Tuesday that she woke up to a man screaming – about “the word of God… about how much he has this in his hands.”

“It’s a wonderful thing to wake up to, and I’m right here in front. I have the front row seat. I was lucky,” said Gouin.

Like many others, she grapples with not only the loss of her home, but also the loss of the city she calls her home.

“You know, in about three minutes you’re walking outside, your town doesn’t even look like a town anymore,” she said of Mayfield, a western Kentucky community of about 10,000 people.

A general view of a makeshift shelter that houses people who lost their homes after a devastating tornado epidemic that ravaged several states in the United States, in Wingo, Kentucky, United States on December 13, 2021. REUTERS / Cheney Orr / File Photo

“As stupid as it sounds, some of these buildings, they… they carry your story, they carry your memories, and they’re on the ground. You know, there’s nothing left. It’s heartbreaking to see that. “

The Way Community Center, where rows of cots and mattresses on the floor lined a room and children playing on the floor of the church shelter, is just a site housing survivors of the tornado. More than 300 people in Kentucky, as well as Arkansas and Tennessee, were staying in Red Cross shelters, and hundreds more were temporarily placed in resorts in state parks in the region, according to the Kentucky Red Cross.

Some tornado survivors are grateful for any help, including from others who suffered heavy losses.

Tommy Lynn Jackson, another Mayfield resident at the Way Community Center, said: “I had nothing, and they gave us clothes, a new blanket and the nice lady over there her husband was dead, but he was a blessing because he left me a blessing because his pants fit me. “

Linda Erickson, who lived in the destroyed Eloise Fuller apartments in downtown Mayfield, said she was thankful to God.

“And if it hadn’t been for the Lord God, I would have died,” Erickson said. “He walks me across as if he woke up angry this morning saying, ‘Where am I again?’ And I don’t know. But he’s got me through it all, you know? “

Another resident of the Eloise Fuller Apartments, Ray McReynolds, sat in his wheelchair, simply talked about what he has lost and what he needs.

“The worst thing we need right now is we need the money,” McReynolds said. “We don’t have a place to live, and we don’t have the money to rent other accommodation. So what we need right now is … it’s … it’s money to help us. “

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Reporting by Aleksandra Michalska and Alan Devall; Written by Leslie Adler; Editing by Peter Cooney

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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