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Cookeville plants 19 trees in memory of the lives lost to the March tornado

The trees were donated by the Nashville Tree Foundation
Posted at 4:40 PM, Nov 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-07 23:31:52-05

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — There will come a day in Cookeville, when the heartbreaking memories from the tornado fade with time. That is, unless, you've lost someone from the storm.

"We think about it every day. It’s just -- you go to sleep thinking about it, you wake up thinking about it," said Rodney Pitts.

Rodney and his wife Trisha relive the grief over and over again, after losing their daughter Erin, son-in-law Joshua and their only grandchild, Sawyer. Their home took a direct hit. "When we say everything was gone, it was gone. Their house -- there wasn’t a 2x4 or a piece of wood left on the second floor," said Rodney.

While the young family will never grow to old age, the hope is a new living memorial will.

Nineteen trees have been planted at a newly dedicated Cookeville Strong Memorial Tree Grove. The tree species range from autumn maples and tulip poplars to sweetgum trees -- all donated by the Nashville Tree Foundation.

"The compassion that they have shown to us, and I’m sure all the other families I’m sure, has just been unbelievable," said Tricia Pitts, Rodney's wife.

Volunteers gathered Saturday morning to plant the trees into the ground. The gathering gave an opportunity for community that the Pitts haven't been able to enjoy due to the pandemic. "We had all kinds of people at our house, to all of a sudden, there were just a few," said Rodney.

They also appreciate the message the memorial grove will send for years to come.

"Hopefully people will see that and realize they’re real people, real loss, and real grieving behind all of that," he said.

They take comfort in the fact that as time goes on -- even though some people's memories of the tornado will fade -- the memorial will only grow.

"This helps us to realize, other people will think about it too," said Rodney.

Other tornado tree memorial groves are being planned in North and East Nashville in the coming months. You can visit the Nashville Tree Foundation's website if you'd like to support their cause.