Headlines from First Thoughts

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Shaw Family: Survivors

Chris Shaw

Kim Shaw shows the storm shelter to Marion Graybeal

Kim Shaw still finds shards of glass in her carpet from the devastating Williamson County tornado 6 months ago. Long after FEMA, disaster relief teams, and immediate responders have moved onto other needs, the Williamson County long term recovery committee still works. They provide hope to families like the Shaw’s and many others in this forgotten region of rural Tennessee.

In February, this storm ripped a swath of destruction from Jackson to Macon Counties, a stretch of over 200 miles. The path of the storm left homes and property like the Shaw’s unlivable. A few mailboxes away, horse farms remain untouched. Ironically this is one of the wealthiest sections of Tennessee. Some say this is the most lucrative county in the state. But families like the Shaws do not share in that wealth. They are still picking up and finding pieces of their lives scattered down Hwy. 46.

The problem with recovery is that there is no easy path from shelter to survival. As I talked to Kim Shaw Tuesday, it’s much like putting together pieces of a puzzle that are lying around with no picture, however, to guide you as you fit each part together. Jobs, education, teenagers, and nearly 5 acres of land would be the usual responsibilities for a family living in a small modular home in the country. Two kids are out of high school. One has two years left. All members of the family work. Chris is a plumber. Kim is a caretaker for elderly people. Even if they wanted to send kids to college, as Kim says, “We can’t afford that.”

Now add a storm from 6 months ago. They rode out the storm in a 4x8x8 storm shelter just large enough for the five of them. The storm lasted only 10 minutes, but the winds were so fierce that it blew the barn into the side of their house, and boxed them into the storm shelter. They had to beat the door open just to get outside to see the damage.

Some 6 months later the only ones left to help the estimated 10-12 families like the Shaws that are still recovering in Hickman and Williamson Counties are local people and volunteer teams.

The Shaw’s live in their old home that has plywood in holes where windows once stood. They purchased a slightly used modular home with what little money they received from FEMA and income they had when the storm hit. They are putting on the finishing touches with the help of volunteers like ours so they can move in. This is not “making ends meet.” This is tying a knot in the end of the rope and hanging on until help arrives.

Yet they are not without hope. Their spirits are good. Kim says, “If we can just get everything back together,” we can move on with our lives. Still some 6 months later, they wait among the shards of glass to turn a used house into a home.

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