MT. JULIET, Tenn. (WKRN) – One year after the devastating March 3rd tornado, Mt. Juliet Fire Chief Jamie Luffman gives News 2 Meteorologist Davis Nolan and photographer Derek Patton a tour through the damaged areas.
The rebuilding while underway, is slow. “Still ‘standing’ and the ‘resilience’ – those are the two words that I keep coming back to,” relayed Chief Luffman.
“You can see this house over here. That’s the epitome of what this neighborhood looked like that night and the next morning.”
“Then you look across the street at the new construction, and you just see that folks would say, ‘we’re going to rebuild’. And it’s just a testament to the love that they have for the city.”
During the March 3rd tornado, the Mt. Juliet communities of Clearview Drive, Catalpa Drive, and Eagle Trace were hard hit by the tornado along with the adjacent schools across Mt. Juliet Road.
“It’s been a long year,” said Luffman. “It’s been a long year for everyone from the residents here all the way to the Wilson County Board of Education. It was such a devastating event.”
But hope has followed the aftermath of that devastation. Chief Jamie Luffman has witnessed the rebuild.
“There’s some folks who started within days of the event,” explained Luffman. “And then others through the process of insurance and getting it re-designed, they’re just now getting, well, you can see the progress of these houses here.”
“This is Fairview. This is the one just west of Barrett. The tornado came right over this hollow and the high spot here and went straight down and started aiming towards the schools.”
West Wilson Middle School, Stoner Creek Elementary, and Mt. Juliet Christian Academy all sustained heavy damage, as the tornado crossed North Mt. Juliet Road. and Chief Luffman has a personal attachment.
“West Wilson Middle School – it used to be back in the day called Mt. Juliet Junior High,” Luffman said. “It was constructed in the 70s. And I was in the very first 7th grade class to attend Mt. Juliet Junior High School.”
Chief Luffman was actually at Stoner Creek for Read Across America Day hours before the tornado hit.
“This happened at midnight. And if it had happened twelve hours sooner these buildings would have been fully occupied with teachers, administrators and students,” explained Luffman.
Thankfully, that did not happen.
Progress has also been made in repairing damaged schools.
Now a year later the Wilson County Board of Education has passed a resolution to start accepting bids for the rebuild of an even safer West Wilson Middle School.
“Building codes have greatly improved,” explained Luffman. “And the building that they place here is obviously going to be aesthetically beautiful. But it’s also going to be much more reinforced and sturdy.
There’s no doubt like other areas in our state, this Wilson County town is “Tennessee ‘Stronger.”
See how hope has overcome heartbreak across the area. News 2 brings you special reports Tennessee Stronger: A Year of Recovery all day Wednesday in every newscast and on WKRN.com.