To rebuild or not? Cookeville neighbors struggle in wake of tornado outbreak and pandemic

Nashville Tornado

PUTNAM CO., Tenn. (WKRN) — Building a home is never an easy process. Now, add a tornado outbreak and then a pandemic on top of that.

For families in Cookeville who were impacted by the March 3rd deadly tornado outbreak, their biggest stress has been deciding if they even want to rebuild.

Hensley Drive was one of the hardest hit areas. Lauren and Kory Farmer were trapped under the rubble of their home. “You’re spitting out debris and dust and drywall, and just not even sure where you are,” recalled Lauren.

Miraculously, both were safe and able to help their neighbors. Kore remembered, “I said ‘I’ve gotta go.'” Lauren added, “He left, and there was a lantern right in front of us, so he was able to take that and go.”

Next door to the Farmers lived the Collins. They lost their daughter, Hattie Jo Collins that morning.
“There’s only so much change that you can mentally handle, and then you reach a breaking point,” said Lauren.

The couple said the last year has been full of grief, stress, and strife. They are trying to start over, and at the start of the pandemic, those emotions were only exasperated. “When you tried to order something on Amazon, initially, they were only shipping essentials. But when you have nothing – everything’s essential – so that was a little frustrating at first,” emphasized Lauren.

Ultimately, the Farmers decided to rebuild. Kory said, “I think that was my selling point to her, is we can rebuild the community.  We already own the land – might as well.”

And, at the top of their list to include in the new home – a storm shelter.

Because of COVID-19, the reconstruction process proved to be more stressful than anticipated, “Supplies went up, the cost of everything went up, getting the supplies in general was horrible,” explained Lauren.

Neighbors on Hensley Drive said they have welcomed new homeowners on their street. They said that is also a sign of hope.


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.

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