Heartland church begins recovering after tornado

Worshiping together after a tornado

MCCRACKEN COUNTY, KY (KFVS) - Hundreds came out to the Mt. Zion Baptist Church to take part in a special Sunday service in McCracken County, Kentucky.

This was far from their regular service as just days ago an EF2 tornado ripped through their church causing crippling damage to part of the facility where a preschool class was with 40 children and 10 staff members.

All students and staff survived the tornado without any injuries.

Trustees and pastoral staff met on Monday night to lay out the ground work for how they will recover from the tornado damage to their main building, which houses office space and classrooms for the preschool.

A building inspector stopped by on Tuesday, Mach 19 and said the main building is off limits and is still without power. The inspector did give the church clearance to reopen the preschool tomorrow in their Family Life and Worship Center, which only had minor damage and is where they are also continuing to have church services.

Dr. Wes Conner, senior pastor with Mt. Zion Church, saw right now the church is dealing with immediate needs, namely securing the damaged building so no one can get inside and access other areas. They are also researching other temporary arrangements, such as getting a few modular buildings on the property to use for office space and preschool classrooms.

The church is still working with their insurance company to figure out what needs to be replaced versus what needs to be fully rebuilt. Dr. Conner said it might take a year or longer to restore the building or rebuild it from the ground up.

The service on Sunday was conducted in the Family Life and Worship Center, a building connected to the tornado-stricken part of the facility.

The service heavily shed light on the fact they were still able to have service regardless of a direct hit from a tornado.

Mt. Zion Baptist Church Senior Pastor Dr. Wes Conner said they needed this service to be able to talk to someone about what happened and to feel the comfort of the community.

“Even despite our damage, all the debris and the broken buildings, we’re open for business,” Conner said. “It was important today for the healing process to begin.”

Mt. Zion Baptist Church Preschool Director Michelle Rushing was one of the staff there that helped protect the children from the storm.

“The building was decompressing and sucking all the air out and the glass was breaking,” Rushing recalled. “He took care of all of us because all of us and all those kids got out with not even a single scratch. He definitely took care of us that day.”

Brittany Turner dropped off her daughter Aurora this morning at the preschool.

It was moments later she heard about a storm approaching the building.

“I heard the alert on the radio, and it said that Blandville was hit and that the tornado had struck. And that there were pedestrians inside,” Turner described. “My heart just fell. It fell out of my chest.”

Turner was one of many parents that raced to the church to see if their child was okay.

Thankfully Aurora and all the other children and staff were fine. Turner was still shook up and emotional from that day.

“I could have lost her,” Turner said. “I would have been devastated. She is my world.”

The church service received a lot of community support, whether it’s emotional, monetary or volunteers lending a helping hand.

Turner said she is thankful for all the support and said it’s a place she can call home.

“It’s family. It’s just a second family,” Turner said about the church community. “It’s an incredible feeling. This is still our home, and this is where she’ll grow up, no matter what.”

They also plan on resuming preschool classes once the fire marshal gives them the go ahead to do so.

Anyone that needs cleanup assistance can call 270-556-5221 according to Marshall Co. EMA.

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