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Tornado memorial unveiled in Dawson Springs this weekend

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Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting
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Lily Burris

A Hopkins County group unveiled a memorial to victims of last December’s tornado outbreak this weekend less than a month before the one-year anniversary of the disaster.

The Dawson Springs Rotary Club held a ceremony Saturday in Dawson Springs City Park, revealing a granite, teardrop-shaped monument bearing an American Flag on one side and a Lord Byron quote – “Adversity is the path to truth” – alongside the names of 19 area residents who lost their lives in the storm last December on the other.

Dawson Springs was one of the communities hit hardest by the disaster, with some estimates saying as much as 70% of the city's homes were damaged or destroyed in the storm.

The local branch of Planter’s Bank partnered with the group, along with the Hopkins County Rotary Club, to fund the memorial. Branch manager Anita Black said the project was important to her.

“It was very humbling, it was very gratifying to know that we had sort of reached to the culmination of this project,” Black said. “The intention of that memorial is to recognize the [victims] and to honor them and to thank them for their sacrifice that night of the storm and to honor them going forward. I never want to forget those people and I know most every name on there personally.”

Planters Bank partnered in the project, aiding with fundraising and providing benches around the site. The Princeton Rotary Club also assisted with raising funds. In total, Black estimates the project could have cost as much as $16,000.

Local officials spoke during the unveiling, and a recorded message from Gov. Andy Beshear, whose grandparents live in the community, was played.

Black said the outpouring of support from throughout the state has been heartwarming.

“The storm took so much from our community, from our town and our neighborhood, but I feel that we also received so much and have received so much,” she said. “We've been very blessed with total strangers, friends, neighbors and family coming to our aid that night and since and that's been very humbling.”

A memorial ceremony is planned for the anniversary of the tornado in December. Black thinks the passage of a year will change how she thinks as recovery continues.

“I still say it's only by the grace of God that my name was not listed on that memorial, as well. I'm anxious – I feel it as we get closer and closer to that date – I'm currently rebuilding my home as well so I feel a little anxious. I don't think we're going to make it by Christmas, or by the anniversary date, of course, but we are making progress every day,” Black said. “After Dec. 10, I said I'm not counting any more months. I'm only looking forward to anniversaries of the new stuff, everybody's new homes and our new beginning.”

A native of western Kentucky, Operle earned his bachelor's degree in integrated strategic communications from the University of Kentucky in 2014. Operle spent five years working for Paxton Media/The Paducah Sun as a reporter and editor. In addition to his work in the news industry, Operle is a passionate movie lover and concertgoer.
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