Cookeville residents battling survivor's guilt after EF-4 tornado

Cookeville Tornado
Posted at 6:56 AM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 07:59:52-05

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — With homes obliterated by the EF-4 tornado in Putnam County, some residents who had their houses spared are experiencing survivor’s guilt.

Kimberly Frick-Welker lives at the end of Echo Valley Drive, one of the hardest hit areas in Cookeville. She finds herself doing what she can to help her neighbors knowing how lucky she was.

“You walk up here and know there were families in these homes. They’ve lost everything, and you go back to your home, you don’t have power and water and that seem so insignificant,” Frick-Welker told NewsChannel 5.

She and her husband spent the majority of Thursday consoling and assisting other residents. Frick-Welker doesn’t know yet if she’ll do counseling with how heavy the burden feels right now.

“You just have this wide range of emotions form feeling fortunate to feeling very guilty that your home wasn’t harmed,” she said.

Homeowners painfully realize how unrecognizable their neighborhood is as piles of debris get higher. It was flooded with thousands of volunteers eager to help the day before, but the streets emptied out on Thursday per the orders of authorities. Crews needed space cleared to continue the arduous effort to restore power and fix electric lines.

David Gorchoff could be seen dumping out his belongings after his home was lifted and moved 60 feet up to the edge of the road by the tornado. Two large trees stopped it from moving any further. Gorchoff was hiding in the bathroom with his dog at the time.

“The whole house was shaking and moving. I didn’t realize it moved the entire house until I made it out,” he recalled.

As someone who helped in the 2010 floods in Nashville, Frick-Welker asks people wanting to help to come back later.

“Save your vacation days, whatever it is. Wait another week or two weeks even a month down the road because there’s still a need for cleanup,” she advised.