When It Hits Your Hometown

I’ve been hesitant all day to post this article. It has taken me a week to get the courage to sit down at my computer and write about this event. I pray that my words do no harm, but instead offer healing and comfort to any others that are hurting. Thank you and God Bless.

(C) Tabitha Hawk. All Photos used with permission

In the early morning hours of March 3rd. 2020, I awoke to a phone call with a recorded warning about a tornado in my county. After checking the weather and seeing our location was not in the path of the storm, Joe and I went back to bed. The next morning, we woke early, turned on the news and learned a tornado went through areas in Nashville, Wilson county, and our hometown of Putnam County. The state of Tennessee was hit hard with many homes destroyed and 24 lives lost with 18 of the lives being from my home county of Putnam.

It has taken a moment to process all that we as a community have experienced this week. It has been sad to see people displaced from their homes. It has been heartbreaking to know people that have lost everything. It has been heart-wrenching to know families are burying loved ones. Our community has been forever changed by this tragedy.

As a person who was not in the path of the tornado, I’ve had feelings that have confused me. While I’m thankful I was not in the path of the tornado, I’m trying to process my emotions.

Yesterday when I was helping deliver meals to victims of the tornado, I became the recipient of the kindness and generosity of people from out of town. This group had traveled over 100 miles from Shelbyville, Tn to cook and serve meals for our community. While I was getting meals to take to some friends that suffered tornado damage, the Shelbyville people were so kind. They showed immense compassion and love for people they didn’t even know. They not only provided physical nourishment, they provided a smile, a hug, and listening ear to anyone who wanted to talk. Even though I had not been in the path of the tornado, they wanted to help me in whatever way possible. They wanted to help me and this confused me because in my mind, I didn’t need help. It was hard to accept that from their perspective I was one suffering from the tornado, because in my mind I have not suffered. I was not in the path of the tornado. I did not even hear the tornado sirens that morning. I was safe in the comfort of my home with no awareness that just a few miles away people were experiencing extreme havoc. No I did not suffer from this tragedy. I have the same view outside my house window today that I had on March 2nd. I have electricity, running water, and the comforts of ‘my stuff’ in my home. I did not suffer from this tragedy. I am saying good morning and good night to all my family. My life as I know it did not change in an instant. I did not suffer from this tragedy. I do not understand the real fear of trying to gather my family and get them to safety. I do not understand the concept of deafening silence. I cannot comprehend the terrifying feeling of hovering in the hall with my children hearing my son pray for our safety. I cannot fathom the fierceness of the winds ripping my house apart. I have no understanding of holding my child with all my strength as the tornado collapses everything around me. I did not suffer from this tragedy. No, I was safe in my bed asleep while people just down the road were having their lives destroyed by the violent wind that tore through their neighborhoods. I do not feel I have a right to say the words, I suffered in this tragedy.

But during the interaction with the wonderful people from Shelbyville, I realized my perspective may be skewed. No I do not have any clue as to how it feels to live through what the victims of the tornado experienced. I can’t begin to imagine their pain. What I’ve felt does not even come close to anything they have known. But this is what I do know. I do know what it’s like to see footage on the news and feel my heart sink that the story is about my town. I do know what it’s like to comfort my son through his confusion as he tries to process why his plans for March 2nd didn’t work out. His plans he made that night to be at the home of his best friends that were in the path of the tornado. I do know what it’s likes to help my son overcome his guilt that he wasn’t with his best friend that night. I do know and understand the rush to contact my loved ones the few hours after the tornado and holding my breath until they responded. I do know the shock of walking onto a friend’s property and seeing the destruction just hours after the event. I do know the emotions of driving down a road I’ve traveled hundreds of times and seeing the drastic change in its appearance and the wreckage of all the homes. I do know what it feels like to hear the tornado was an EF4 and wrapping my mind around that fact. I do know the feeling of reading posts and hearing stories of losses experienced by people I know and love that had their lives forever changed. I do know the feeling of recognizing a picture of a girl posted on Facebook and trying to help the person return it the her. I do know the feeling of driving down a road in my town and seeing the 18 white crosses representing the lives lost in my county. I do know the feeling of crying through church on Sunday as the minister talks about the tragedy and shares a post written by Matt Collins, a father who lost his young daughter, Hattie. I do know the feeling of choking back tears as we closed our service by singing “Holy, Holy, Holy” in memory of 2 year old Sawyer Kimberlin #sawyerssong.

As difficult as it is to admit, I am beginning to understand that this tragedy has affected me too. My interaction with the Shelbyville people helped me to recognize that suffering goes beyond the tornado’s path of destruction. The towns of Baxter and Cookeville, the state of Tennessee, and even the country are suffering with what hit my hometown. As we continue to recover from this tragic event, I pray God comforts us through our suffering especially those who were in the midst of that tornado.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15

Please keep the March 3rd tornado victims and communities of the Putnam, Davidson and Wilson counties in your prayers.

While I do not expect that the people from Rowdy Ranch Catering in Shelbyville, TN will ever read this. I want to express my sincere thanks. I really appreciate all you did for me and all you did for my town. Thank you for your kind hearts and love shown. #tennesseestrong

Thank you to Tabitha Hawk for use of her photos. Other photos of the devastation in the Cookeville TN area can be found here https://www.facebook.com/tabithakayleehawk/media_set?set=a.781689835657130&type=3. Photos of the tornado damage in Nashville, TN area can be found here https://www.facebook.com/tabithakayleehawk/media_set?set=a.777528332739947&type=3

As always thanks for reading and may God bless,

Until next time

16 responses to “When It Hits Your Hometown”

  1. Well written article Nicki. I understand exactly how you feel.

    1. Thank you for the kind words Mrs. Martha.

  2. Cindy Ogletree Gates Avatar
    Cindy Ogletree Gates

    Nicki…..thank you so much for this article. I understand exactly what you were saying….I didn’t feel right in saying that I suffered in comparison to what so many of our neighbors experienced….but I know that we were all affected and will never be the same! Your words were very eloquent and touched my heart. Thank you!

    1. Cindy thank you for the kind words. It is comforting to know that others can relate to what I said. I struggled with putting this into words and whether I should even post. It means a lot to read your comment. This is a week that was a defining moment for our town and we will forever be changed.❤️

  3. We are still praying for everyone in the affected communities and those not affected with loss but with care to help.

    1. Thank you Tangie

  4. Praying for the entire community

    1. ❤️It is the thing we need the most.

  5. Thank you God for keeping you safe. It is heartbreaking to hear about the loss of family and how many homes were destroyed. You are okay to continue being kind and helping others, know that. God bless the victims and their families. I will continue to keep you all in my prayers.

    1. Thank you for the kind words and the prayers. That’s the best thing you can do – Pray and Pray some more.😊❤️

  6. Glenda Qualls Bates Avatar
    Glenda Qualls Bates

    Beautifully stated. I agree, I was sleeping peacefully in my home in Knoxville unaware of the horror my family and friends were going through. My heart aches for my former hometown and it’s people that I love so much. I had to come help in some way. I’m glad I was able to meet you and work with you at Willow Ave coC on Monday. Prayers and love always for this community and it’s special people. Cookeville will always be home and forever in my heart.

    1. Thank you Glenda for the kind words. I’m glad I had the chance to meet you also.❤️

  7. I have cried for days. I have felt those same things you have described. I did not experience this beast first hand either, however, it has affected me. I have friends and family that were in the path. I have read stories and tried my best to keep up with the injured. I feel like I have tried to pack myself with knowledge in the past several days. Most of it was hard to swallow. You will be in my prayers as we all try to heal from this devastation! Thank you for your post!

    1. Sharon, Thank you for sharing. It is nice to know I am not alone in my feelings. Thank you for the prayers. Prayer is what will get us through this. I will pray for your healing and your loved ones that were in the path.

  8. Wonderful writing . Thanks for sharing. Everyone has an “experience”worthy of sharing. We will all remember where we were when…..

    1. Yes we will. This has been a defining moment for us for sure. Thanks for the complimentary words. I appreciate them very much

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