Laurel Co. family reflects 6 months after tornado

By: Paige Quiggins Email
By: Paige Quiggins Email

EAST BERNSTADT, Ky. (WYMT) - Sunday, Sept. 2 marked six months since a historic and deadly tornado outbreak in eastern Kentucky. One community hit hard was East Bernstadt in Laurel County, where six people died. Some folks who lost everything said they were taking it one day at a time.

Mary Parker said though she is several thousand dollars in debt, she is happy to be alive.
Two of the six people killed in East Bernstadt were what she calls a “shouting distance” away from where she was on Mar. 2.

At first glance, Mary and Arthur “Art” Parker appeared to have a normal life.

“My husband used to be happy here he's no longer happy here, it is just, it is not the same,” said Parker.

On the second day of March, 2012, their world was turned upside down.

“Six months ago a tornado took everything we owned,” said Parker.
“We had no clothes, no food and no place to go.”

Parker said she and her husband were in a truck in their old garage when the tornado came quicker than they could think to react.

“My husband said get in the truck! Get in the truck! So I got my little dog and we went in there,” said Parker.

Many who saw her path said Mother Nature showed no mercy in East Bernstadt.

“Your friends are gone, every personal belonging we had, pictures of our family that's deceased is gone, you can't replace them,” said Parker.

Parker lost someone she had been close with for more than a decade.

“I considered her a best friend,” said Parker.

Ethel Pruitt and her daughter Mary Ann died when their home on Watkins Road was ripped apart. The two lived within walking distance from Parker's home.

“It's not the same out here, I used to talk to her every day, see her out in the yard, she had dogs, I have got a dog,” said Parker.

Parker said she had known the two for the 13 years she had lived in the community with her husband and Pruitt’s daughter lived with her for a while.

Parker said she often sits on her back porch and looks over and thinks about what she used to do with her best friend. While she said everything has been replaced, she would give it all back to have things back the way they were.

“I used to say that the tornado was the best thing that ever happened to me and my husband, because we got newer stuff,” said Parker.
“But looking back on it, I would give my life to have what we had back and Ethel would be back, her and her daughter.”

Without hesitation, she confirmed the fact that though her belongings were not shiny and new, she was not concerned with things of that nature in this situation.

“I'd give it up in a heart beat,” she said.

Parker said the hardest part now is continuing to push forward...

“The bills keep piling on in, of course the bills never did stop, but you got bigger bills now,” Parker said.
“So it makes it a little harder when something like this happens.”

Parker said people are still in need of clothes, food and assistance because many of them could not do anything with the donations that were pouring in right after the storms. Other families who spoke with WYMT said the same thing.

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