Tornado victims seek refuge at church after the storm

By: Paige Quiggins Email
By: Paige Quiggins Email

Most of the large churches in West Liberty are no longer there, but one church that remained intact held service even though they had no electricity. The members said they relied on a higher power.

Wells Hill in Morgan County once was a place where people came to view homes, businesses and churches in the town of West Liberty from the top of the mountain that have since been destroyed. The people of the town devastated by the effects of an EF3 tornado came to one place left still standing to seek refuge on Sunday.

The words of the gospel hymn “Amazing Grace” rang through the stained glass windows that illuminated the sanctuary of the Index Community Church. Without power, light is something the pastor said the people desperately need to find their way both spiritually and physically.

“This morning it was just that emotional sadness that comes over you as you begin to realize what people are facing what they are going through,” said Pastor Mike Frisby.

The pastor since 2001 said he had never seen weather like this before. Frisby said it seemed like a nightmare, but he was bound and determined to have a shelter open when so many others had been demolished. Church members who braved the storm said they were lucky to get out with their lives and there was one thing they looked forward to following the chaos.

“I just prayed all last night that we would have church today, because we need it,” said member Peggy Fisher.

The Registered Nurse lost her home and said it has been a very tough thing to go through. Fisher said she spent time at the community center on Friday night trying to do what she could to save lives. She recalled carrying a 2-year-old girl through the community center who she found wandering through the rubble. Fisher said she was finally able to find someone after a few hours who recognized the youngster and she hoped she was reunited with her family.

“It was like a warzone,” said Fisher.

Tears and blood stained the streets of downtown West Liberty on Friday, Mar. 2, 2012. Death and destruction left hundreds wondering why.

Those who had been searching for answers came to one place in the heart of the Bible belt in Eastern Kentucky to find them.

“I am just thankful that, my family is okay and that I have God,” said Fisher.
“All the churches in town are destroyed, so people today have nowhere to go.”

Dozens said they felt misplaced and the actuality of the situation had not begun to set in until their normal Sunday routine and life as they knew it was disrupted.

“Memories I have of places that I have been, everything is destroyed,” said Joseph Litteral.

Litteral said he was visiting at the church with his girlfriend after his home church turned to rubble. The Christian Church of West Liberty resembled a pile of crumbled brick and mortar.

“There’s nothing left,” said Litteral.

Litteral said though it brought him sadness to see his church in that state, but he simply wanted to be around others to start moving forward.

“The best way to cope with this is to be with loved ones,” said Litteral.

Litteral said he was an acquaintance with a few of the six people who died. He said many of his friends knew them personally and it was difficult to realize it had happened. The pastor said he wanted to acknowledge that many would question the reason for the tragedy.

“You always hope that people will turn to God, you realize that people become bitter because of the tragedy and will wonder where God is at a time like this,” said Frisby.
“I don't know how people that don't have God are able to get through this tough time without him."

Frisby said though they did not have electricity, the doors were open to anyone who needed to find a hand to hold and an ear to listen. Around forty people circled the altar, hand-in-hand, praying aloud.

Frisby said at least five of the families at the church have had their homes destroyed and several others are unaccounted for. He said he hoped that having the faith would make all the difference.

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