Mayor of Ky. town devastated by Dec. 2021 tornado hopes for more normal Christmas

WATCH | Mayor of Ky. town devastated by Dec. 2021 tornado hopes for more normal Christmas
Published: Nov. 24, 2022 at 1:08 PM EST
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MAYFIELD, Ky. (WKYT) - Communities across the commonwealth will begin putting up their Christmas trees and decorating for the holiday season this weekend.

In Western Kentucky, communities like Dawson Springs and Mayfield are also getting ready for a grim anniversary. On December 10th and 11th of 2021, a deadly storm system moved through our state, destroying homes and lives.

For the people of Mayfield, that storm hit in the darkness and for the past 11 months, the small, western Kentucky town has taken small steps to move forward.

The demolition of damaged buildings and homes has slowed, but the memories of what happened are still in the hearts of people in the community, including Mayor Kathy O’Nan.

O’Nan says the anniversary is a date she and the rest of Mayfield hold sacred.

“We’re being very careful about what we’re planning for the one-year anniversary. We’re very protective of that date,” said Mayor O’Nan. “We have had several organizations and corporations want to come in and do wonderful things for us on that date, but we are guarding it.”

In Mayfield, 24 people were killed. Eight of those killed were working in the candle factory when the tornado destroyed the building.

Mayor O’Nan says it’s the holidays that can be the hardest on families who lost a loved one. In 2021, Christmas came just 15 days after the deadly tornado ripped across the small town.

“In such devastation, Christmas went on. But nobody here had a normal Christmas last year,” said O’Nan. “It is my hope that, following the commemorations that we have on the 10th, and then as we move closer to Christmas, we are just with our families and our friends and have as normal of a Christmas as we can.”

This Christmas season, Mayor O’Nan is also thinking about Eastern Kentucky as communities get ready to spend their first Christmas after the deadly flooding. Her advice - don’t forget, but keep moving forward.

“Stay the course, just stay the course. Even when they are down and struggling, reach out,” O’Nan said. “There’s someone next to them having a good day if they are having a bad day.”

Looking back on the past 11 months, Mayor O’Nan says she is grateful for her community and grateful for Kentucky.

“I knew it before December the 10th, but I am so thankful that the Commonwealth, that the United States, and some parts of the world that they know how wonderful and resilient and strong the people of Mayfield and Graves County are,” O’Nan said.

On December 10th, the members of the Mayfield community will gather on the grounds of the former candle factory. They will walk two miles to the empty lot that once held the courthouse. A Celebration of Hope service will then be held later in the afternoon to remember the ones that were lost one year ago.