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Wall of Hope: Man travels from Fla. to put up memorial in Mayfield

Published: Dec. 16, 2021 at 10:54 PM EST
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MAYFIELD, Ky. (WKYT) - We have lost 76 fellow Kentuckians from last week’s tornadoes. Their families and communities are devastated, but one man is making sure they’re not forgotten.

Leo Soto traveled more than 1,000 miles, collected donations and thousands of flowers to put up a memorial in downtown Mayfield. He wants people to know the names and faces, and that the ones we lost are not just a number.

“It really comes home for people to see them… This life was lost in this tragedy,” said Makayla Wadkins.

A memorial now stands outside what was the Graves County Courthouse. Now, it serves as a place for the community to mourn, and to heal.

“What happens when these tragedies hit, people don’t know what to do. I hear the saying, ‘people walk around like zombies.’ This is essentially giving them a little gathering spot,” said Soto with the Wall of Hope Foundation.

Soto is from Miami. The memorial is the second Wall of Hope he has created, the first one being after the Surfside building collapse. He heard about the tornadoes and connected with Wadkins after she tweeted some pictures of victims. He wanted to do more and honor the precious lives lost.

“The reason for these pictures is that you can understand there’s a face behind each casualty. Sometimes people get a little numb to these fatality numbers, and it’s just another incident,” Soto said.

“It’s so important because we get caught up and just forget that these people were someone’s family member,” Wadkins said.

Seeing it takes your breath away. It makes what happened last weekend that much more real and overwhelming.

“It’s been incredible. The amount of hugs, the amount of people who have said ‘thank you for giving us a spot to unite.’ I actually had a national guardsman walk up to me and say ‘hey it’s been really depressing these last four days. This is the first time I feel some hope,’” Soto said.

It’s a feeling the community needs as we remember our neighbors in western Kentucky.

With the Wall of Hope Foundation, Soto plans to travel the country and put up these memorials should there be a tragedy in other communities. You can find their website by going to wallofhopefoundation.org.

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