DAWSON SPRINGS, Ky. — It was just one month ago that tornadoes ripped through small towns in several states, particularly Kentucky, and left communities decimated.
Now, those towns in need fear becoming the America too many have forgotten.
“This is not a city of wealth," said Lisa Barnes.
Barnes works for the housing authority in Dawson Springs. She’s surrounded by houses marked by piles ... or by empty plots where piles have been removed.
“Everybody’s pretty much low-income here," Barnes said, "and it’s going to be hard for them to rebuild and start all over.”
One of the homes that was destroyed belonged to her father, Consey Pagano, who passed away in May 2021 from COVID-19. One month in, it’s all still there: her father’s favorite chair, lawnmower, and bed, all within sight, all out of reach.
"I haven’t stepped foot on this property," Barnes said. "I haven’t had the time.”
When the tornadoes first hit, towns like this received news coverage, truckloads of volunteers, and the nation’s attention. A month later, so many outside have moved on, while so many in Dawson Springs are stuck.
Lora and Bob Ford took a day off for Christmas, another when it snowed. On the rest, they’ve been packing what they can in the town they’ve called home for decades.
"I used to ride my bike all around through here," Bob Ford said, "and literally, from here down is ... gone. Emotionally, we’re starting to hit a pretty hard wall."
They aren't sure where they'll live next. They haven't found a new home, even as they prepare to say goodbye to the old one.
For those touched by tornadoes, the aftermath moves in inches, whether in a town of 2,000 or 10,000. Mayfield, Kentucky saw the most damage – and, initially, the most attention. That has since faded. What remains are lives irrevocably changed and a makeshift memorial to lives that ended too soon.
Tim Brown lives in Mayfield. Every day he comes to the same downtown spot and tries to make a dent in the devastation - for free.
“A lot of people had left," Brown said. "They came, they did what they had to do, and they disappeared. We’re hoping more people come back in and help us out.”
“People are going to start to go back to their everyday lives," Barnes said, "but don’t forget about us … because this is going to be a long road."