By Debbie Gregory
On the 10th anniversary of the 2008 tornado, folks gathered on the courthouse lawn, in downtown Lafayette, for a short program hosted by the Macon County Chronicle, to remember those who died as a direct result of the storm and to recognize the people and agencies involved in the recovery effort. Brother Terry Gillim spoke about the community involvement following the tornado, Sheriff Mark Gammons led us in prayer and Maria Duffer announced the names of those who were killed and then sang Amazing Grace.
On Tuesday, February 5, 2008, a powerful tornado tore through Macon County, and out of the death and destruction, came many acts of courage, and everybody pitched in during the long recovery that followed.
By the time the twister finally left our community that night ten years ago, countless homes had been destroyed and the death toll reached the double digits.
After the storm moved into Kentucky, folks here were left confused and some disoriented, and no one had any idea just how bad it really was. When the first few streaks of daylight crossed the landscape and people looked around, nobody could believe what they were seeing – not here, not us.
This article is in memory of those who lost their lives, and a tribute to all the emergency agencies, law enforcement, city & county officials, businesses, churches, organizations, the hospital, public utilities, and everyone involved in the worst chapter on record, in Macon County’s history.
In May of 2017, EMA Director and Lafayette Fire Chief Keith Scruggs passed away. In honor of the chief and his pivotal role following the deadly tornado in 2008, the Macon County Chronicle would like to pay a special tribute to the late Mr. Keith Scruggs.
When I sat down with tornado survivor Mrs. Diane Daugherty, two days before the 10th anniversary of the storm, she talked about the night of the natural disaster, the destruction, and the lingering heartache despite ten years.
“It was a typical night in our household on Tuesday, February 5, 2008,” said Diane, “and even though I knew bad weather was heading our way, I wasn’t that concerned because we had grown accustom to hearing warnings and nothing every happening.”
Diane went on to bed and around 10:30 p.m. she said her husband, Terry, woke her and told her she needed to get up because there were tornado warnings for Macon County. “As I walked through the hallway, Terry hollered for me to come outside of our home on Tuck Road and look at the strange glow, which we later learned was the fire at Columbia Gulf,” said Diane. “We stood there on the deck mesmerized by the sight, when the electricity suddenly went off and I felt a strange wind on my face. Now as I look back, I truly believe it was the hand of God, pushing us back into the house to safety.”
Diane remembers telling Terry that something wasn’t right and they needed to get to the closet in the hallway. “As we sat in the closet we heard a big “whoosh” sound,” recalled Diane, “and then complete silence, followed seconds later by another “whoosh”. Then it was over.”
When the Daugherty’s exited the closet, they weren’t prepared for what they saw. “Our home was destroyed, power lines were down, trees were uprooted and people’s personal property was scattered up and down the road. The destruction surrounding us was unbelievable.”
“During the days that followed, without the help of all the emergency agencies and law enforcement, churches, organizations and everybody pitching in wherever they were needed, none of us would have made it,” said Diane. “Folks were wonderful to us and the people in this town were the major part of our recovery. I can’t say thank you enough to everybody and to this day, ten years later, it still hurts and I still cry.”
“I realized after that terrible night, there are no guarantees at what life holds ahead for any of us,” shared Diane. “This tornado will be remembered as a time of heartache in our community, and for me it will be a memory of how my family was spared, and to never take life for granted.”
We all know that it took a lot of time and effort for Macon County to recover from this storm, and on this 10th anniversary of the tragedy that came in the night, the Macon County Chronicle would like to honor the following, for their efforts during the chaos and heartbreak that followed the tornado: the Macon County Sheriffs Office & Sheriff Mark Gammons, Lafayette Police Department, Macon County General Hospital, former Mayor Shelvy Linville, Lafayette Fire Department, 911, Macon County EMS, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Macon County Rescue Squad, Tri County Electric, North Central Telephone, the late EMA Director Keith Scruggs, the National Guard, area churches, the Red Cross, FEMA, and former President George Bush who came to Macon County.
The Macon County Chronicle would also like to remember those who died as a result of the tornado: Mark Aaron Brown, Carol Irene Boyd, Javier Castillo Bueno, William “Bill” Clark, Johnnie Dollin, Dixie Marie Ellis, Stanley Eugene Francis, William “Tom” Manier, Joan Rodriquez, Courtney Lynn Payne, Rex Douglas Payne, Jimmy Shaw, Pablo Osorio, Michael L. Welch, Julie Welch, Jesse Welch, Hannah Welch and Randy Wilkerson.
“The Macon County Chronicle would like to thank everyone for coming out in the cold and gathering for a photograph.”