Moving Forward After the StormsPosted on Jun 27, 2022
While many Kentuckians are still picking up the pieces after last December's tornado outbreak, most are counting their blessings six months later
The small community of Bremen, in Muhlenberg County, may never be the same after the loss of homes, farms, and the many lives due to the devastating tornado outbreak last December.
But the spirits of those living there could not be broken and life is returning to a new normal more than six months later.
Muhlenberg County resident and Kentucky Farm Bureau State Director, Mary Kate Kordes, recounts that day and how the community came together to begin the healing process.
“We were simply devastated to see all of the destruction but more importantly to learn of the loss of so many lives,” she said. “But the resolve of the people who live here has been incredible and everyone has taken each day, one at a time, to clean up, rebuild, and make plans for the future. All our local first responders, utility companies, county officials, volunteers, the surrounding counties that responded, people from many other states who came and continue to come here and help, the supplies, labor and monies that have been donated, have been vital to the rebuilding from this tragedy.”
As part of that, Kordes, who also serves on the Muhlenberg County Tourism Board was involved with countless other local leaders to create an event that would honor the families of those lost in the deadly storms and to celebrate community members who have worked tirelessly over the last six months to assist those in need.
“Growing Stronger Together” was a fitting theme for the event that featured a concert with local and national performers, plenty of food, and many tributes to families, first responders, and community leaders who have been at the forefront of recovery efforts.
Bremen Mayor, Allen Miller, said he had never seen the kind of devastation left by the tornado.
“Our community had never had anything like that happen and at that point, when it first happened, we weren’t thinking about what we would be doing the next day or in six months, it was more about what to do in the next five minutes,” he said.
But as time moved on, Miller said the outpouring of help was amazing.
“From then to now, we've been cleaning up and we've had a lot of volunteers come in; Amish groups, church groups, and other organizations,” he said. “And it's not just from our area or not even from this tri-state. It's from everywhere; Pennsylvania, Florida, South Carolina, West Virginia, and we've gotten the cleanup done. Now, we're in the building phase and we're seeing the same thing.”
Muhlenberg County Judge-Executive Curtis McGehee said while there was so much destroyed, there were also so many people willing to do all they could to help
“To see the devastation, to see the loss, to see so much suffering was, to say the least, overwhelming, but at the same time that was happening, people were coming together in such an amazing way and embracing each other and helping each other and supporting each other. And from that night until this moment, I continue to see that,” he said.
Jay McElwain, a local ag teacher, songwriter, and performer lent his talent to the gathering. He said the event was a way to honor a lot of people who have worked so hard to help in this time of need.
"There was a lot of people who just grabbed their tractors, or bulldozers or their chainsaws, and just showed up to help after the storm went through and I think this community event was to honor them, our first responders who put their lives on the line to obviously go into dangerous places, the utility workers and construction workers, the people who volunteered time, or made donations. And of course, obviously the victims, people who lost their property, and unfortunately the ones who lost their lives,” he said.
McElwain, who also serves on the local Farm Bureau board, four years of which were as president, added that the event was also to honor the fact of how the county and communities came together in a time of crisis.
Grayson Jenkins, a country/Americana music singer, and songwriter, who is originally from Muhlenberg County, performed a set during the concert in front of his hometown crowd.
“I came down for a few days, about a week after the tornado, and helped cleaned up and it was just heartbreaking to drive through Bremen, an area I visited often while in high school, and see what the storm had done,” he said. “To be able to come back now six months later and do an event that uplifts and shows the strength of the community, it means a lot to me, home is something that you can't replace.”
Emerging country music star Alex Miller, a native of Garrard County, who finished off the concert, said he was glad to be a part of the event.
“When we got the call asking if we wanted to be a part of this, we said, ‘Absolutely.’ This is a Kentucky town, and I'm a Kentucky boy, I couldn't turn them down,” he said.
Alex Miller added that his message to the people in Muhlenberg County was one of hope that times will be better and there was no place he would have rather been on that night.
“A lot of families here have been hit really hard, and if we brought some happiness and some help to the community, that’s exactly what we were trying to do.”