Rebuilding lives after the storm

Volunteering: A journalist’s firsthand account
Published: Mar. 11, 2020 at 10:26 PM CDT
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Putnam County, Tenn. (KFVS) - As a journalist, I’ve seen the images all too often.

Neighborhoods reduced to rubble...lives torn apart, all in an instant.

The interviews with those who lived through it bring about a multitude of emotions.

They speak through either tears, or talk quietly as many are still in shock over what they saw and heard.

“Unless you’re there there’s no way to explain it, it’s like your worst nightmare,” said Sandy Jones. “It’s the worst kind of sounds, and smells.”

No matter how many times you see the aftermath of a tornado, it always takes your breath away.

(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS)(KFVS)

“The loss of life in this area is overwhelming when you think about your neighbors and the children,” said Beverly Bush.

In Putnam County, Tennessee 18 people died including five children under the age of 13.

Sandy Jones said it’s a miracle she and her family survived.

“I had enough time to run upstairs and get my grand baby and my daughter and ran into my bedroom, and it was over," said Jones.

Sandy’s living room became a makeshift triage center, as the injured started to emerge from the debris.

“I opened my door and all my neighbors were crawling in my door and that’s where they stayed for three to four hours,” said Sandy Jones. “Some of them had broken legs, arms and glass sticking out of was horrific.”

For this recovery effort, I wanted to give you a different perspective told first hand by volunteers.

This time, I’m one of them.

(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS)(KFVS)

For those who come to these disaster zones, it’s never convenient, it’s sometimes uncomfortable, it’s emotional, and it’s the right thing to do.

“This community, what they’re doing, and how they’re coming together you don’t see this everywhere,” said Chad Craft, volunteer.

Crossroads Church in Jackson recently started a new ministry called Lift.

Physically, it’s about heavy lifting...helping people remove the obstacles brought about by mother nature.

It’s also about lifting their spirits, helping people to begin the healing process.

“I think for us and our church group we feel like this is where we are supposed to be,” said Chad Craft. “We feel like this is what we’re led to come do and we think this is our mission right now.”

It’s not just Crossroads, Nashville and the surrounding counties rocked by this storm have to be feeling loved.

When we were on the ground in the Cookeville area, there were so many volunteers you couldn’t even begin to count them.

(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS)(KFVS)

In the hardest hit areas, they had so many people show up to help that in some cases emergency crews had to turn people away.

“I’ve never had so much help,” said Beverly Bush. “People off the street saying we’re here, do you need some extra hands? I mean who does that.”

We worked alongside people from all over the country.

At one point members of our crew worked alongside firefighters from Kentucky.

In another instance, firefighters from Alabama stopped and offered to feed us lunch.

Every time we stopped for a break, someone was walking up to us offering us food.

(Source: KFVS)
(Source: KFVS)(KFVS)

In Mount Juliet, not far from Nashville, our crew spent some time helping homeowners make sense of the mess in their yards.

We knew the job wouldn’t be done when we left, but it would be better and might bring these families closer to normalcy.

“The little things mean so much to us right now, they mean so much,” said Sandy Jones.

“People are good and all you have to do is pan your camera across everything that’s out here, hundreds and hundreds of volunteers that are out here,” said Chad Craft.

They are the volunteers who would likely show up in our yards if the winds one day turn our lives upside down.

“If you’re looking for a reason to feel good about where we are as a human race, you’ll see it here all you’ve got to do is walk around and talk to these other folks that are out here doing all of this good work,” said Craft.

The prayer is that even the smallest of gestures leads to hope, as these families work to rebuild their lives in the months and years to come.

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