Two Years Later, Dresden Tornado Still Leaves Imprint 

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Shannon Taylor, Associate Editor

It’s been two years since the tornado came through Dresden Dec. 10, 2021, leaving every resident in Dresden shook to the core. There has not been a storm that has happened since that night where I have not felt some sense of uncertainty or anxiety. When you watch a tornado tearing up your yard right behind your ten-year-old child, it kind of does that to you. 

I think everyone in Dresden can remember vividly every detail from that horrific night, and thankfully no lives were lost, but I know it came close that night to taking my daughter and I have never felt so scared at any point in my life before, or since then.

Sitting at home that night, my boyfriend Nicholas and I were in my office at our home on Pikeview Street. His daughter, Scarlett Oliver, was asleep in her bedroom, my daughter, Scarlett Merrell, was in her room watching television and my son, Damian Johnson, had gone out with some friends earlier that day. 

We knew some bad storms were a possibility that evening and had packed small emergency bags just in case. In our heads though we honestly thought it was nothing. Things like this only ever happen somewhere else. How wrong we were.

About 10 minutes before everything changed, I looked out the window and saw that my son was walking up after being dropped off. He lay down on the couch and Nick and I went back to the office. That was when his aunt, Denise Whitson, called to let us know that a tornado had landed in Sharon and was heading our way. “How far is Sharon from here?” Nick asked me. I told him about 5 minutes. That’s when everything went quiet. 

We stepped outside and looked toward Sharon. It was black. And eerily quiet. You could feel the static in the air. Then we started to hear a roaring sound like I have never heard before in my entire life. We ran back inside and everything went dark. The electricity had went out. 

I remember us screaming for the kids to get in the dining room, while Nick went to grab his daughter out of the bed. For once, all the kids listened and came running and grabbed their bags as we all headed to the stairs which led to our basement.

Now, the way our basement works is the stairs lead down to a door that takes you outside and then there’s a door to the left where you go into the basement. Easy, right? 

Wrong. We thought we had time. We didn’t. Little did we know, the tornado was already in our backyard.

For some reason no one can seem to remember, my daughter was the first to reach the bottom of the steps. When she opened the door, the force of the wind flung the door open and threw my daughter back about 4 feet. I watched in horror as the tornado came down our yard, ripping up our fence, right behind my daughter who looked at us in confusion because she had no clue what was happening right behind her.

The scene playing out before us was like something out of a movie. Our dog, Pickles, who was outside at the time, leaped over us to get to the top of the stairs as we all stared at Scarlett and the fence being upended directly behind her as she clung to the door to keep from being swept up with it.

I just knew I was going to lose my daughter that night. Debris was flying all around her and coming into the stairwell where the rest of us were. Leaves like papercuts, unfelt in all the turmoil as we tried to reach Scarlett, but the pressure of the wind forced us back. 

Nick, who was closest to her, pushed forward with all of his strength and was able to grab her hand and pull her to him, falling back on the stairs. He wrapped one leg around her and used one foot to prop against the wall as he wrapped both his arms around her holding her as tightly as possible.

Damian was directly behind me with his arms around me and I was holding Nick’s daughter so tight it would leave imprints on her arms and sides the next day, as well as trying to hold my daughter and shield her head from debris. We all had marks on us for about a week after from how tightly we were holding on to one another. 

We all sat in the stairwell for what seemed like forever, feeling the force of the wind suction all around us and trying to shield ourselves from the debris flying through. I remember thinking to myself that I just didn’t have enough arms to hold them with. 

Damian was telling me he loved all of us. It was like hearing someone’s last words. I started to cry. Scarlett grabbed my hand and said, “Mommy, don’t cry. Please don’t cry.” I remember Nick telling us it was all going to be okay. 

What seemed like hours was actually only a few minutes and then everything stopped. Everything else is history…. the damage, the volunteers coming to help cleanup, the rebuilding, the struggle to get help. All of that is still ongoing today. 

There were groups that did help us like Be The Village who donated clothing, food, water and gift cards early on and then helped us repair our siding and our fence later. I cannot stress enough how thankful I am that Sandra Taylor and her organization were there helping people from day 1. 

There were many that promised help that never followed through like Roy Herron’s Volunteer Center who left a note on my doorstep to stop by his office. When I did, Herron asked me what I needed that day, to which I responded: dog food and food for us. He gave me a stack of his books and said he’d be in touch. I never heard from him regarding help again. 

Then there’s the WCLTRG (Weakley County Long Term Recovery Group) and I’m not going to speak too much on them other than to say, there were multiple hoops and stipulations that members of the community had to jump through including giving insurance, financial information, bank information, signing waivers, among other things. 

Two years later, I have noticed a lot of rebuilding going on in Dresden and it makes me happy to see it. I hope that one day soon, everything that was lost will be rebuilt. I know we still have some siding that needs to be fixed, but everything we either used our insurance to cover, Be The Village helped with or we covered ourselves out of pocket. 

The imprint of that was at first, left on our bodies via bruises from holding on to one another too tightly. Then there was the imprint of the damage done. Now, that imprint is just left on my heart at what our family and many others have struggled with since that night. Whether that be PTSD, anxiety, financial struggles, rebuilding struggles or whatever the case may be—that night left its imprint on every person in Dresden.

I think of everyone often and hope that in two years’ time things will have gotten better. The community of Dresden and what everyone went through is often on my mind and in my heart. Not a storm goes by that I don’t remember. 

FIRST CHRISTMAS AFTER STORM: From left to right: (Damian Johnson, Scarlett Oliver, Nicholas Oliver, Shannon Taylor and Scarlett Merrell). Cutline: Our family enjoying the first Christmas after the tornado and thankful that we were all together.

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