By David Dawson
David Boyd, pastor at First Baptist Church, Camden, continues to hear harrowing tales about the tornadoes that tore through Benton County on Monday night.
“(We’ve heard) things where you say, ‘wow, I thought that only happened in the movies,” Boyd said. “It’s almost hard to even imagine it.”
Although the violent storms didn’t create as much damage in Benton County as they did in other parts of the state, there was still much devastation in the Camden communities, including two reported fatalities. Roughly 25 homes were damaged or destroyed.
Disaster Relief groups from Humphreys County, Lexington and Brownsville, along with a DR team from Camden, are aiding the recovery efforts in Benton County. First Baptist Church is helping assist the DR teams.
“We, as a church, have been blessed to be able to take care of their needs, in terms of providing a meeting place, getting drinks for them, and we were prepared to house any of them who needed to stay,” said Boyd.
The path of the tornado was roughly 2.5 miles north of First Baptist Church, Boyd noted.
The tornadoes and accompanying storms created destruction in a handful of counties across Tennessee. At least 25 people were killed and a still-to-be-determined number of people were displaced.
One of the tornadoes featured winds of up to 175 mph, according to news reports. The storms caused about 50 miles of damage across Davidson, Wilson and Smith counties in Middle Tennessee. There was also damage in Cookeville.
Boyd, who has been apart of the recovery efforts in Camden, said he has been helping with a group that has been doing clean-up work on the grounds where the fatalities occurred and at nearby houses.
“At this point, we are primarily looking through (the rubble) and trying to determine, is there anything salvageable or recoverable?” he said.
According to news reports, Carl Frazee, 67, was inside his mobile home in Camden and was thrown outside when the tornado touched down. He landed in his yard, among the broken trees and debris. Frazee was taken to the emergency room and died from “many injuries” according to reports.
Many others in the Camden area experienced a brush with death. Boyd said he spoke with a husband and wife who were nearly swept up in the tornado.
“(The husband) said the tornado lifted him off the ground and then just dropped him back down on the foundation (where the house previously was),” Boyd said.
The man’s wife, who was in bed at the time, told Boyd that she was holding on to the headboard of her bed as the storm pulled their house apart. “She said her feet were off the ground and it was pulling her up,” Boyd said. In the aftermath of the storm, the husband found his wife with a wall on top of her.
The couple had been watching weather reports on TV, Boyd was told. They believed the storm had passed them, and had moved on to the north. The fact that the couple survived was nothing short of a miracle.
“It is amazing that they didn’t get killed,” Boyd said. “There is no other explanation than God intervened. There really isn’t.”
Boyd said that if the storm had taken only a slightly different path, the damage might have been even worse.
“We had a couple of church members who — if the storm had maybe been 150 feet south — it would have taken their houses out,” said Boyd.
Boyd said God is at work in numerous ways in the aftermath of the horrific events.
“We’ve made some contact with some families who are not involved in any churches, and we are hopeful, that through this tragedy, we can help them,” said Boyd. “Hopefully we will see some of those folks come to know the Lord — if they don’t already know Him,. And, if they do know Him, we’d love to be able to help them get connected with the local church a little bit more than maybe they have been.”
Boyd sought shelter in his basement when the tornado touched down.
“Where I was, it was calm, and then it all happened so quick,” he said. “We are talking about maybe 10 or 15 seconds, and then it was gone. It was moving that quick.”
Boyd, who noted that his home had been hit a tornado 14 years earlier — before he lived there — said he knew the storm was nearby by the sound of the wind.
“We heard it coming,” he added. “So, we (Boyd and his 17-year-old son) headed down to the basement. It was about 100 yards to our South. We got some hail that was (about) two inches in diameter. And then, just like that, it was calm.”
The storm was gone, but the hardships had just started for those in Camden. B&R