One Week Later - Caruthersville Continues to Heal

One Week Later - Caruthersville Continues to Heal
By: CJ Cassidy

Caruthersville, MO - Sunday marked one week since destructive tornados ripped through parts of the Heartland.

In Dyer County in Tennessee, the storms killed 16 people. One man died in the Pemiscot County town of Braggadocio.

A tornado destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses in Caruthersville and injured more than 60 people. But miraculously, no one was killed.

"It's a blessing we haven't run into any deaths that we know of everyone's accounted for," Caruthersville Police say. But they've have had their share of problems; especially when it comes to maintaining law and order in parts of the town torn up by the twister.

Capt. Frank Cervantes says small wonder some folks put up their own warning signs, to keep intruders out.

"We've had several reports of looting as far as people going in and picking up TV sets taking air conditioners, and reports of generators being taken," he says.

But Cervantes says looting are to be expected after most natural disasters. What you don't hear enough are the stories of survival; like the one about the dozens of parishioners who made it out of the Jesus Name Tabernacle Church, alive.

"How all those people come out I don't know. A lot of the church is torn up, " he says, shaking his head.

"I thought we were going to die.There was a lot of prayer going on in the hallways," Associate Pastor and Caruthersville Firefighter Richard Lee says. Lee led his flock to the hallway, and is being credited for their safety.

"We had about 140 people here. I think the right choice was to get them into another part of the building instead of letting them go their own homes and into the storm," he says.

Part of the roof in the hallway folks crowded into, came crashing down, but Lee says most suffered only a few bumps and scrapes.

Nothing compared to what might have happened if they'd been out in the sanctuary, where the roof was ripped wide open.

"We opened the doors most of us just cried thankful no one was hurt," he says.

Folks in Caruthersville say it could be months maybe years before they get their town back to the way it was, but until then they'll lend a helping hand to each other and try to recover from the mess.

"Everyone's pulling together in this community," Cervantes says.

Richard Lee says many area churches have offered their buildings to hold services in until they figure out where to go next.

The damage to replace the entire building could be in the upwards of $4,000,000 but church leaders hope most of the structure can still be saved.

Some other smaller churches also suffered damage, but no one was inside at the time.