WINGO, Ky (AP) – He came to the shelter crying. He didn’t have a house and everything in it. On the phone, Victoria Byerly-Zuck asked her neighbors to look for something unbearable to lose.
It was a plexiglass box, the size of a medicine cabinet, and it contained everything left over from a baby boy who died four years ago: his burnt ashes, photographs, the first and only one he wore. clothes.
The 35-year-old was surrounded by others in this temporary shelter who lost everything during a devastating tornado. shattered the small town of Mayfield. Their city center was destroyed. Hundreds of houses were destroyed. They lost cars, wallets, clothes, Christmas presents, all the furniture, photos and precious family heirs.
More than 100 survivors opened their doors here, at a church in Vingo, a city of 600, just hours after the tornado struck, and no one knows how long it will remain open. An 82-year-old widow who has no home to go to, asked volunteers how long she would stay, and they told her how long she would stay.
Byerly-Zuk’s 3-year-old son tried to get out of any car that came and went from this shelter for a day.
“He wants to go home,” he said. He has autism and is not verbal. She doesn’t know how to explain to him that they don’t have them anymore.
They were left alone in a storm in their rented home in downtown Mayfield. He put pillows in the tub and laid her on top. With the cracks in the windows he took what he needed for his son: a backpack, napkins, a few changed clothes, a liter of milk. It never occurred to him that what had been hastily chosen would be left to them.
He went back to the bathroom and closed the door, as if a tree had fallen by its roots and collapsed into the house. She climbed to the edge of the tub and tried to balance her body to protect her son from being crushed underneath.
He asked God to save him: “Please, we will overcome this. I don’t care about anything else. Everything else can be replaced, but it cannot be replaced. “
She had buried the baby before, and that was something she could think of. In 2017, she became pregnant and chose a name, knowing she had a son. The next day his water ran out and doctors were unable to save him. She was born prematurely at 22 weeks and her lungs did not develop. He breathed once and died a few minutes later. He lives in that moment in his mind every day.
“I can’t do it again,” he said. I really can’t. I just got one son, ”he said.
After the storm, as he lay in the bathroom, he realized they were trapped. Fallen wood and debris had blocked the bathroom door. He could not cry, choke, or cry for help. He punched a hole in the drywall and turned the lamp on and off to let someone in. The National Guard came and dug them up.
That morning, she wrapped up her son’s last Christmas present – a $ 300 gift he bought him. When they fled their ruined home, there was a bathroom and another room where they were – all the presents were under the ruins.
That evening, a neighbor called to tell her that the rest of the house was destroyed, and she asked him to look for a box containing her baby’s ashes.
Now they are surrounded by rows of beds and strangers. They play together at a corner billiard table that the church has now set up for homeless children. There are people in their 80s and 90s, babies, dogs, including a little one named Jingles.
On Monday afternoon, volunteers tried to set up extra beds as they tried to accommodate another 40 people from other shelters that emerged within hours of the storm, with people never intending to stay or not equipped, but did not want to return anyone.
The health company pulled the trailer to the site. They are trying to find an outdoor shower and washing machine because they fear it will be the only long-term solution for most of the evacuees. Volunteers walk around. “I need two underwear,” one said. “Do we have socks?”
Byerly-Zuk’s son is accustomed to working on a regular basis: going to bed at 8pm, sleeping in the afternoon. But there is a problem with sleep. He couldn’t force her to fall asleep, and he couldn’t force her to sleep in the bed they were in even after midnight on Sunday. She worries about what this uncertainty is doing to her.
He is close to his grandfather, who is in Nashville Hospital, recovering after his house collapsed on him. Their neighbor died. Other people I knew in nearby apartments were missing.
“After that, I need therapy; We all need therapy, ”he said,“ because here they tell the stories of survivors and people they don’t know.
He answers many questions about their future in the same way: “I don’t know.” He is hopeless and sad – he no longer has a driver’s license – but he tries to pretend he isn’t afraid so that his son isn’t scared either.
“It’s something I have,” he said. “We lost everything.”
He assumes they will spend Christmas in a shelter.
His only thought is to pray.
There was one duo, she said: On Sunday night, a neighbor called and said they would find a box of her baby’s ashes in the rubble.