NOW IS THE TIME: A Six-month Review of a Community's Preparedness


Betty Bequette, a December 10, 2021, tornado survivor, tells Mike Carroll, Chairman of the Weakley County Long-Term Recovery Group’s Survivor Advocacy Committee, her personal story of having to leave her home and personal belongings behind in Dresden for temporary shelter in Huntington after the tornado destroyed parts of Dresden in December of last year. She was not able to move back to her home until four months after the disaster.[/caption]


Special to The Enterprise

An ominous signal for severe weather was apparent across the Mid-South on December 10, 2021, leading up to what is now referred to as the Quad-State Tornadic Supercell. The deadliest tornado outbreak for the month of December produced at least 61 tornados across four states. Six months after this natural disaster, recovery and clean-up remain at the forefront, survivors explore every option and possibility to aid them in getting “back to normal” or returned to the life in which they knew. While “bigger and better” may be the ultimate goal, residents who were uninsured or underinsured are realizing, at the end of the day, “safe, secure, and functional” may be their only hope.

It was 11:08 p.m. (Friday, December 10, 2021) when the first injury was reported by Dresden, Tennessee. Since that time, citizens have witnessed, read, and heard, or seen things that have left them in a state of shock and awe. Being crouched in a dark basement, hallway, or center room not knowing what to expect, citizens experienced a very particular feeling of vulnerability from the tornado. Windows exploded inwards, glass and household items flew midair, and walls around them separated, causing everlasting trauma. Some prayed for the groaning beams to hold, while others prayed for comfort through potential pain. All prayed for their lives.

Volunteering time knocking on doors, listening to stories, determining needs and connecting residents to resources allows one to become a voice for the survivors. One man tells a story of taking a picture of the U-Haul backed in front of his house to be loaded with anything salvageable before his childhood home was demolished. Some said they will never forget the sight nor sound of the buildings being destroyed on the southside of the Weakley County Courthouse. Several are amazed at the attention a Dresden alumna continues to get on a social media site with pictures, videos and articles set out to encourage and empower citizens to seek the truth and take a stand against corruption.

The majority of residents agree that while we appear to have been prepared for the storm, we were not prepared for recovery. Of course, being in the midst of a national pandemic only hurt progress. Fortunately, not being prepared does not mean that we can’t be prepared in the future. It means we have to acknowledge, work harder and focus more attention on being prepared. New Orleans was not ready for Hurricane Katrina; however, they were better prepared for Hurricane Isaac.

The past months have been a painful period but not without celebration. We have been forced to learn how to coordinate volunteer groups for major projects, manage and allocate raised funds, track data, apply for grants and request aid through official channels. In the early days of recovery, we did some things wrong, misleading information may have been given and much time was wasted. This is unfortunate, caused additional suffering, and prolonged our recovery as a community. However, take a look at a photo or a video made within the first few days after December 10, 2021. Today, it is evident that we have come a long way.

Now is the time to move forward by putting personal vendettas behind, seek to understand processes and supporting those qualified and capable of leading the community. Now is the time to support survivors, by making them aware and encouraging them to pursue all of their potential resources. Now is the time to set a positive example for other cities to follow by being mindful of our comments and actions. Now is the time for our community to come together by setting personal interests aside and fulfill our duty to "love one another." Now is the time to reflect and cherish what was, find a way to accept what is, and envision what will become. Community Recovery ... It begins with me.

Editor’s note: Mike Carroll is a Dresden tornado survivor who leads the Survivor Advocacy Committee of the Weakley County Long Term Recovery Group. Tornado survivors still in need of assistance are encouraged to contact the WCLTRG at 731-699-7913 or visit the county’s Personal Development Center, located at 8250 Hwy., Dresden.