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Cleaning up after a Tornado

Bill Radke

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Picking Up the Pieces
(Rick Gershon/Getty Images)
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Bill Radke: What are you doing in Hartsville [Tenn.] today, Chris?

Chris Howell: Well, right now we got a bunch of crews that we're sending out into the tornado area that came through the other night. We just loaded up some trailers to go to various churches and now everybody's kind of congregated around so we can get them going with the clean-up effort.

And what are the main jobs that need to be done?

We've got crews that came in with heavy equipment -- Bobcats, front-end loaders -- and we've got youth groups from other churches here that can do heavy hauling. We've got volunteers at the church that have packed sack lunches to go out with the volunteer groups, and also to hand out to people who are still in the area that aren't willing to come in to the church to, you know, ask for anything.

Chris, will you give us a sense of what you've seen this week?

One thing that stands out in my mind: there was a gas pipeline up in the Hartsville area that exploded the night that the tornado came through. Just yesterday I met and talked with a gentlemen whose house was directly backed up to the pipeline.

When it exploded, it blew up his house. He and his family, they got underneath the house in the crawl space. They all survived. But they lost everything.

His wife and himself, they both suffered injuries. His wife has suffered a broken neck, a broken vertebrate in her spine and she has been in critical care until yesterday. Her husband came in -- he was still kind of shell-shocked -- and was asking if it would be possible to get a crew out there to help clean up the area out there, because no one had been out there.

Chris, what do you say to this man?

Well, you know, the only thing you can say, is, "Hey, we're here, what do you need?" A lot of people in this area, they're a proud people and they won't ask for anything, they like to do for themselves. And they're so shocked by everything that's going on, they're not gonna ask for anything. They're just gonna be working on their own.

But when they get some help, and they see that someone's willing to help and to relieve them of that burden, that's what this is all about.

I can't imagine what this experience does to you, Chris. How are you feeling today? How are you handling all this?

Well, I've been able to get sleep actually. I try not to let it affect me directly.

If my place was one of 'em that had been devastated, I would probably want to be there. But knowing that I've got to fill a need here at the church and help everybody else out, this is where I [need to] be.

  • Music Bridge:
    The Old Man And The Evening Star
    Artist: Michio Kurihara
    CD: Sunset Notes (20/20/20)

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