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'It has not hit me yet': In towns flattened by tornadoes, the future is hard to comprehend

Mayfield, Kentucky after tornado damage
Posted at 2:38 PM, Dec 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-12 16:38:01-05

MAYFIELD, Ky. — At a certain point, it all seems so vast.

In Mayfield, Kentucky, the center of town was destroyed by at least one tornado.

While there's an obvious physical toll on the town of 10,000, the storms have taken an emotional toll on those affected.

“I hadn’t been out to my car since this happened," said Sarah Bryan, a resident of Mayfield. "I mean, my mother’s right there.”

Bryan's mother’s ashes are in the bag beside her. She lost her mother last month. Now, she may have lost her home.

“We’re waiting to basically see if our landlord’s going to repair," Bryan said. “I just kind of lost it for a good solid 20-25 minutes, thinking about what we’re going to do, where we’re going to go.”

Bryan lives a quarter-mile from downtown, but she hasn't walked that way yet.

“I can’t imagine going around that corner and seeing the flattened houses I’ve been hearing about," Bryan said. "I don’t need to see it right now, to be perfectly honest.”

Some don’t have that choice.

“It has not hit me yet," said Keith Crouch, surveying the damage on Broadway. "I’ve had little moments.”

In a town that built its name on manufacturing, Crouch owns the largest sign manufacturing plant in town. Now, his buildings have been flattened. He hopes insurance will help. But what bothers him beyond his business is all that won’t come back.

“We’ve got six churches within three or four blocks of each other, and every church is destroyed," Crouch said. "The tornado had no preference. It hit them all.”

Faith and community extend far beyond Mayfield.

Chad Frye is from East Bernstadt. That’s more than four hours away, on the other side of Kentucky. His volunteer fire crew came out with chainsaws, supplies, and for so many, necessary grace.

“It takes a community coming together as one and just everybody helping each other," Frye said. "It's just lend a helping hand to help your community out.”

Among all, there is shock. There is the need to suppress the tears just to get through the moment. At times, there is catharsis. But then it’s back to work: cleaning, planning, trying to make sense of something so vast.