By Nita Johnson
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
The March 2, 2012 tornado came in the utter blackness of the night. It ripped through the west and northern sections of the county, killing six, injuring many, and destroying numerous homes.
The devastation and deaths resulting from the horrific event will also be engraved in the hearts of minds of Laurel Countians for decades to come.
But the diligence of volunteers and victims to survive — to rebuild and renew — will be the focus of a special service to commemorate the achievements of those who lost so much but gained just as equally in the past year.
“Renewing Hope...We Will Remember” is the theme of the service scheduled for Saturday, March 2 at the First Baptist Church of East Bernstadt at 7 p.m. While organizers of the event will focus on the rebuilding processes in the wind-ravished areas of East Bernstadt that were hardest hit by the tornado, the victims and those who assisted in the cleanup process will be recognized during the ceremony.
“We don’t want to call it the 'anniversary' of the tornado, but rather something focusing on the rebuilding process and the accomplishments by the victims in the past year,” said Glenn Toney, worship pastor at FBC-East Bernstadt. “We want to honor how the community came together to help each other and while we remember the devastation, we want to continue looking forward.”
The service will include guest speakers, Laurel County Sheriff John Root and Laurel County Judge Executive David Westerfield, as well as FBC-East Bernstadt pastor, Bro. Norm Brock and special singing. Those volunteers, and especially the first responders, will also be recognized during the ceremony.
“We also want to invite those people who were on the jail’s work release program who came out and helped,” Toney added. “They did so much to help with the cleanup.”
Local church groups are also encouraged to attend the event.
First Baptist Church of East Bernstadt was one of the first to jump into action after the storm ripped through Bentley Road, Old Hare Road and Little Arthur Ridge Road around 7:30 that night. The church’s Family Life Center was used as the headquarters to feed volunteer workers and first responders during the first week following the tornado. An emergency food and clothing shelter was also established at the church, overseen by the United Way of Laurel County.
As donations and volunteers continued to come in from all around the area and from different states, the United Way operated from the former Elmo’s Furniture Store on Ky. 490 to assist victims with emergency shelter and other services to help them start anew. Members of East Bernstadt First Baptist Church and volunteers continued to serve hot meals to those victims whose homes were destroyed or damaged from the tornado, as well as continuing to feed the volunteer workers assisting in the cleanup operations.
“This was a time that the people of Laurel County all came together to help, and we want to recognize them for all they did to help other families in the county,” Toney continued. “This service is to remember them, as well as remember the victims, and to celebrate the rebuilding process.”
For more information, contact the church at (606) 843-6211.