Why do bad things happen? It's a question that has plagued humans since the dawn of time. Once, the terrible weather that claimed two lives and devastated untold others last week would have been said to be the work of an angry and wrathful SPIRIT.

Today, of course, we know that these mild winter days set the stage for bad weather. We have at least some understanding that warm fronts meeting with cold fronts have the capability of producing powerful storms.

This community has seen destruction from tornados before. I'm not saying we're old hands at this sort of thing because each situation is unique and each person's grief is their own. And seeing people lose everything in an instant that they worked for years to build never gets easy.

But we do have experienced rescue personnel that respond to the call for help. Wednesday evening, all hands were on deck to help find the people known to be missing and get them transported to the hospital or area trauma centers for treatment. The Cumberland County Sheriff's Department, Fire Department and Rescue Squad responded quickly to Rinnie to start rescue and recovery efforts. They were joined by others, including Crossville Fire Department and units from our neighbors to the north, Fentress County, offering a helping hand, while the Salvation Army provided food and drinks to keep them going. The Cumberland County Red Cross opened a shelter and offered a safe haven for those needing it.

Volunteer Energy Cooperative crews and contractors quickly descended on the site, working through the night and into the next afternoon to restore power. Trees had to be cleared from roads, including Hwy. 127. At Cumberland Medical Center, doctors, nurses and other employees were reporting for duty to help care for the injured that may need treatment.

When Thursday morning rolled around, with clear blue skies and a hint of spring in the area, the questions went from "What happened?" to "How can we help?" That's one of the things that makes me proud to call Cumberland County my home. The community, with our varied backgrounds and talents, comes together in a crisis to help one another. We've seen it so many times, from previous tornado disasters in our community to our rescue personnel going to offer assistance to our neighbors, or donating truck loads of food, clothing and water to help victims during hurricanes to the south of us and other large-scale national disasters. When something happens, Cumberland countians want to help.

Keith Garrison, director of Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency, called on the Volunteer Organizations Assisting in Disaster (VOAD) unit, led locally by the Cumberland County Red Cross, Salvation Army and the Cumberland Good Samaritans. These three organizations will work together to coordinate emergency response and help the families who were affected by the tornado put their lives back together.

A fund has been established at Cumberland County Bank and will be used by VOAD to help pay for needed supplies and relief. Donations to this fund are needed and encouraged. Mickey Eldridge, executive director of Good Samaritans, said announcements would be made when other items were needed and where donations of clothing or household items could be made. Right now, she said, funds would be used to give quick relief to families in need of food, shelter and clothing while the extent of the damage was surveyed.

This coordination helps to reduce duplication of efforts so that more help is available for those affected. There's plenty of work ahead and those who'd like to get involved are encouraged to contact those three organizations. Cumberland Good Samaritans may be reached at 484-3225, Red Cross, 484-6348, and Salvation Army, 788-3414.


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