City of Dresden Recovery Commemoration Event
Story by Shannon Taylor Senior Investigative Reporter
Dresden residents gathered in a packed McWherter Civic Center for a commemoration event of the one-year anniversary of the tornado that destroyed much of Dresden on Dec. 10, 2021.
Former Dresden Mayor Jeff Washburn and Weakley County mayor Jake Bynum estimated a turnout of around 125 people attended, however Washburn said that he was surprised by how few survivors attended. He estimated that less than 20 survivors attended the event.
The tornado ripped through streets, destroying City Hall, the Dresden Police and fire departments, churches, numerous businesses and right at 150 homes. Extraordinarily, Dresden suffered no deaths, which Washburn pointed out when he gave his speech.
The event, sponsored by Weakley County Long Term Recovery Group, was planned to “to serve as a remembrance, source of recovery assistance information, and celebration of community unity resulting from the devastating tornado that impacted Dresden.”
Speakers included Bynum, Washburn, Dresden Mayor Mark Maddox and Reverend Don McCulley of Dresden First Baptist Church.
Booths were available throughout the room containing recovery information and souvenirs were given out by Simmons Bank, First Community Bank of the Heartland, WCLTRG, UMCOR, Carey Counseling, Operation Christmas Ornaments Near and Far and West Tennessee Legal Services. T-shirts, keychains and handmaid ornaments were given out to survivors. A First Responder Banner was on a booth for everyone to sign and leave messages for the first responders. Hot chocolate and ornaments were distributed by Paducah Stake Latter Day Saints. Caroling was performed by the Good Time singers led by Judge Tommy Moore.
First responders were recognized at the event and those included the Weakley County Sheriff’s Department, Weakley County Municipal Electric System, Dresden Police Department, Dresden Fire Department, Palmersville Volunteer Fire Department, Dresden Public Works, Weakley County Rescue Squad, Weakley County Highway Department, Latham Volunteer Fire Department, Weakley County 911 dispatchers, Weakley County Emergency Management Services, Tennessee Emergency Management, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Gleason’s fire, police and public works, Greenfield’s fire, police and public works, Sharon’s fire, police and public works, Martin’s fire, police and public works, McKenzie fire, police and public works, Como Fire Department, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Paris fire, police and public works, Union City fire, police and public works, Henry County Sheriff’s Department, Milan public works, South Fulton police and fire department, Huntington public works, Dresden Elks Lodge, Church of Christ Disaster Relief, Dresden First Baptist Church and Weakley County Baptist Disaster Relief.
Washburn said, “had it not been for our first responders and what they did in the first hours after the event and for weeks and months afterwards, we would not be where we are today in our recovery. We owe them a great deal of gratitude.”
A proclamation was signed by Bynum and Maddox proclaiming Dec. 10 as the 2021 Tornado Remembrance Day.
A tree lighting event was scheduled after but had to be canceled due to the weather. A tree was placed downtown in the spot that City Hall once sat. A tree was lit indoors at the event to help replace the event that was canceled.
Maddox said that the love everyone has shown one another continues to give strength to the community and stated, “I am grateful to all of those that have helped and to all of those who have helped the helpers and the helping has not stopped. This iris is blooming again.”