MAYFIELD — The stories that rose from the ashes of the tornadoes that swept through western and central Kentucky three weeks ago continue to touch lives everywhere. They are heartbreaking and sometimes miraculous at the same time.
Bob Waldridge, the pastor of Yahweh Baptist in downtown Mayfield, met with a family of six from his church who had a heartbreaking experience Dec. 10, with their home directly impacted by the tornado.
The Cook family includes a husband and wife and four boys aged 2 to 10. The boys and the mother, who was pregnant, were in the family bathroom. The boys were in the tub with the mother on top of them. Daniel, the eldest, held his 2-year-old brother John as tightly as he could.
Charles, the father, was barefoot and not too worried about the storm at first. “We have our share of storms,” Waldridge said. “Noah, our local meteorologist, he cries wolf a lot.”
But Charles began to have a bad feeling as the storm got closer. He went to the front door and looked out and saw it was bad. A lightning flashed in the distance in front of him. “He closes the front door and runs to the bathroom. As he runs, he hears the house collapsing around him. He’s trying to reach them and he’s not a little man. He’s 6-6 and 400 pounds,” Waldridge said.
The wind whistles through the house and literally lifts it when it reaches the bathroom. He bangs his head against the bathroom ceiling, knocking him out. When he wakes up, he’s covered in debris and can’t get out of it. “Daniel was awake the whole time holding his younger brother until the wind pulled them apart,” the pastor said. “All he can do is cry and apologise. He kept saying, ‘I couldn’t hold it back. The wind picked us up and I couldn’t hold it back. .”
The house remained half-together and was lifted off the ground until it struck a line of trees about 100 yards from its original location, virtually disintegrating on impact with the trees. “They bounced around that house for most of it,” Waldridge said. “It’s a miracle they’re alive, but that’s the best part.”
Daniel was confused and he doesn’t know what happened to anyone. “Now he’s a 10-year-old boy, but he’s a good, good boy. He tells this story. He sees a man standing in the way and describes that man in great detail. He says what he door, what he looks like. The man points to a site and hears, “Help your mum and dad”. He fixes his eyes on this man and he has to climb some rubble, because there is no good way to access it. He was relatively close (to them) nearby. He joins them and the man is no longer there. He is gone.”
Waldridge, who said he was a “conservative Bible man,” believes Daniel was guided by an angelic being. “I know we preachers sometimes tell stories enough times that they get bigger each time, it’s just our nature, but this story is so powerful. It humbled me so much and reminded me how great God is.
Daniel reunited with his mother and father and reunited his three siblings. He has broken ribs, a broken arm and a fractured wrist and had to walk several hundred meters to find someone to help find everyone. They had to dig up his father with an excavator, the pastor said. His father’s feet – remember he was barefoot – were blasted with debris and chopped into pieces.
Jess, the mother who was six months pregnant, broke her pelvis and suffered other injuries. They took the baby, a girl Jess dreamed of, but the baby died five days later while Jess was in an induced coma. Her eyes are open but she hasn’t responded otherwise, Waldridge said Tuesday.
“We buried the baby last week and Charles could barely walk,” the pastor said. “He carried this baby’s coffin from the hearse up the hill, about 50-75 yards, hobbling all the way. The strength God gave him was miraculous. Praise God again here. He saved those people and seeing the strength he gave people encouraged me.
The family is still trying to piece together pieces of her life, Waldridge said.
The youngest brother had no broken bones, but the others did. They found most of the bathroom and the family’s van was 300 meters away. The house was on the outskirts of Mayfield, near the candle factory which was decimated by the tornadoes.
“It’s a miracle that everyone has experienced this,” Waldridge said.