While Weakley Countians were spared from the tornadoes and flooding that ravaged neighboring counties and states, that didn’t stop locals from experiencing first-hand the aftermath of Mother Nature’s destruction.
In the spirit of volunteerism, Shannon and Aaron Grimes of Martin issued a plea for help from businesses and caring souls shortly after an EF-5 tornado destroyed parts of Alabama two weeks ago. What the couple found was a long list of helping hands across Obion and Weakley counties.
Through Facebook and word of mouth, Mr. and Mrs. Grimes were able to collect 70 cases of water, 10 cases of juice, a few bags of snack foods, 500 pounds of dog food and 100 pounds of cat food and litter.
The following weekend, the couple hit the road bound for the Deep South.
“We went down with the intention to help with the relief in smaller towns that got hit thinking they would need more assistance than Tuscaloosa or Birmingham (Ala.),” Mrs. Grimes shared.
“Four hours into the trip, we get to Phil Campbell. The devastation we saw when we got there was unbelievable. Phil Campbell, which to us seemed about the size of Sharon, was completely leveled,” she said.
Thinking that supplies would be more needed in smaller towns, the couple took a gamble and stopped in Phil Campbell to drop off their relief goods.
“It was hard to tell where a house had been because everything was thrown around so bad,” Mrs. Grimes said.
The couple moved on to the next town after they discovered supplies were not needed in Phil Campbell. As the couple drove deeper into Alabama, the devastation was just as apparent.
Eventually the Grimes neared Tuscaloosa searching for signs of destruction. They found homes covered in blue tarps and piles of what used to be homes littered on the sides of the highways.
“We knew we were on track,” Mrs. Grimes noted.
They stopped at a church to administer their supplies. They exchanged the donations of water and snacks for the pet supplies the church had collected.
“Aaron and I were determined to find a place that was helping the animals that had lost their homes as well,” Mrs. Grimes said.
Led by blind faith, the couple set out once again, in search of an animal shelter.
“As we were on our way to the animal shelter, we were able to drive through all of the devastation in Tuscaloosa. It was nothing like you could imagine unless you have seen first hand what an EF-5 tornado can do to a city,” she added.
With all of the donations from northwest Tennessee firmly in the hands of people in Alabama, the couple safely made their way home that day.
The impact of those spring storms had such a devastating effect on the people who were directly hit as predicted and residents in those towns will continue to pick up the pieces for months.
Hundreds of miles north, the indirect impact from the devastation is felt in a different way as one local couple now has an even greater appreciation for each day they are given on this planet.
“The trip down there had such an impact on us. We just realize how precious life is and not to take any day for granted because it can be gone in an instant,” Mrs. Grimes said.
Pictures and words do not seem to adequately define how much of an impact those storms had on people in in the South. Local relief efforts continue for those hit the hardest. FEMA and the American Red Cross are still working to assess the damage as well as provide shelter for those who have lost everything to Mother Nature’s wrath.
The donations delivered by the Grimes were gathered from Martin Health Care, Dr. Moore’s dental office in Martin and Golden Living Center in Union City.
Currently, more than 2,000 Red Cross workers are on the ground in the South to help communities hit by flooding and tornadoes in April.