My crew and I were up by 3:30am and ready to get started. I had an interview with FOX News at 5am and by lunch, it felt like we had already put in a full day's work. We started the day working in an area called Liberty Heights; a residential area on top of a hill. People's personal belongings, baby blankets, books, clothes, toys, journals, covered the once beautiful mountainside. Residents' most private and intimate personal items were scattered, sometimes miles away from their home. Houses that once stood tall and offered safety for a family, had been leveled by the tornado. Pieces of tin were wrapped around tree tops, a true indication of the force of the deadly storm.
When we rolled in on Sunday, I couldn't believe my eyes! I've seen a lot of heart-wrenching scenarios in my life, but the devastation of West Liberty is unlike anything I've ever experienced. Main Street has been completely demolished, as you'll see in the slide show. In a community like West Liberty, the family owned businesses are the heartbeat of the town; of the people. As we drove down Main Street, I couldn't help but reflect on the blood, sweat and tears that went into building each of these businesses.
On the corner of Main Street and Prestonsburg Street, a 100 year-old church was left in crumbles. This church, that represented so much of what West Liberty values, and had been a landmark in this community for a century, had been reduced to a few piles of bricks. Some residents shared that the church had the most beautiful stained glass windows and one recovery coordinator was carrying a piece of one of windows with him, as if to keep the memory alive.
But existing right along with all the devastation is a strong sense of hope. The people of West Liberty have hope, even if they have very little else. It would be easy to get lost in the aftermath of the tornado and all the work that is now required to clean-up their small Appalachian town; they are facing years of recovery efforts. But these people have a resilience, a will to take back what was theirs and build it back better than it was before.
Just like the gentleman carrying the piece of stained glass window from the church; the residents of West Liberty, Kentucky are ready to move forward; they are looking forward to the future, while never forgetting their past and it is that strength and perseverance that is the most important component of their recovery.
There's still much work to be done, so I've got to get to it...