Putnam County building memorial park for tornado victims

Posted at 6:09 AM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 23:10:48-05

PUTNAM COUNTY, Tenn. (WTVF) — A year after the March 2020 tore through Putnam County killing 19 people, plywood signs and piles of cinder blocks still fill the hardest hit neighborhood.

"I cant believe its been a year," Lisa Samide said. "It's still fresh in your memory that's for sure."

Samide was asleep in her home when the tornado touched down a year ago Wednesday.

"I know it's gonna be hard to believe, but I have a brick house but it was shaking, my brick house was shaking," she explained. "After it died down, we went outside and everything was in shambles... and I thought, 'Oh my God, I cant believe I lived through this.'"

A year later, she sees reminders of the storm everywhere, from the household items still scattered in some yards, to the people she sees every day.

"My neighbor right here lost his son and his grandson, so you see him all the time," she said, while pointing to her neighbors home. "That comes back all the time."

But she says the biggest reminder is what's not there: the dozens of still-vacant lots that surround her home.

"It's kind of a little bit empty," Samide said. "There is quite a bit that's not rebuilt at all."

It's an emptiness that's been noticed by county leaders, as well.

"It still kind of gives me an empty feeling thinking of what that was before and how quickly it changed," Putnam County Mayor Randy Porter said. But he added that the county hopes to help fill that emptiness soon.

Earlier this year, the county bought three of the neighborhood's vacant lots with plans to build a memorial park.

"It's going to be called Hope Park, and it's just a playground, walking trail, a nice green space for the folks in the neighborhood," Porter said. "We want to make sure that everybody remembers there that at one time there were other families that lived here that lost everything, but we’ve recovered."

County leaders will be officially break ground on the park site on Wednesday at 10 a.m. You can watch a live stream of the groundbreaking ceremony on Mayor Randy Porter's Facebook page.