Friday Dec 02, 2022

He lost his entire house. Why he still has everything he needs – KDRV


As Johnny Stutzman surveyed the wreckage of what had been his house, all he could do was muster a laugh.

“My front porch is laying over there on the other side of the road,” he said, pointing to a splintered pile of rubble that had landed amid trees across a Kentucky state road when a deadly tornado hit the night of December 10.

Stutzman, 23, is part of the conservative Swartzentruber community of about 40 Amish families in the area. He and his wife survived the tornado — climbing into their basement just as their windows shattered.

But his neighbors, Jacob and Emma Gingerich, and two of the Gingerich’s five children were killed when their trailer home was ripped from its frame. Emma Gingerich was Stutzman’s cousin.

Family members and friends from five states had arrived by bus early last week for the Gingerich family funerals, and they stayed to help with clean-up and the start of the rebuild. They slept on the floors of homes still standing.

Members of the Kentucky National Guard had stopped by earlier Thursday to drop off sleeping bags. In the afternoon, as a heavy rain began to fall, several men were unloading a pallet of new windows that had just been delivered.

There’s just so much work to be done.

A week after the deadly long-track tornado ripped through western Kentucky, residents of the region were rallying around those who had suffered the worst damage, much like the Amish community that had gathered in rural Graves County, several miles outside Mayfield.

In Mayfield, a town of less than 10,000 people where more than one-in-three residents live below the poverty line, many people said they were committed to remaining in the area and rebuilding what they had lost.

But anxiety over the economic blows so many had suffered had also set in, with many beginning to confront the long process of recovery with more questions than answers.

In Mayfield, the owner of a food truck that sells the self-proclaimed hottest wings in the world wondered how he would afford new grills. A basketball trainer hoped the children he works with would have access to a gymnasium soon so he could make a living again. A mother of four worried about where she and her four children would stay after two weeks of free lodging at a nearby resort runs out.

Stutzman had five buildings on his property: a house, a barn, a workshop, and buildings for machinery and lumber. All were destroyed.

“We don’t have anything usable as far as furniture. And as you can see, there’s a lot of our stuff over there,” Stutzman said, looking across the street.

“First of all, we’re going to rebuild everything and try to get back into our home,” he said. The challenge, he said, is paying for the materials he will need.

“I’m not going to ask for it,” Stutzman said. “But we’re going to take all the donations so we can buy what we need for materials and stuff to rebuild.”

‘It’s just a day.’

With Christmas just days away, some in Mayfield who survived the tornado, some of whom saw presents they had already purchased get damaged or destroyed, said they were scaling back their plans. They were simply grateful to have survived to see the holiday at all.

“There is no Christmas. Not this year,” said Angee Wilson, 46, who works in her …….


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