Still standing, a Christmas tree symbolizes hope for a rebuilding community after a devastating and deadly tornado.
In Defiance, Missouri, an otherwise destroyed house was holding onto one little secret – a Christmas tree, fully intact and presents included. A cleanup crew was the first to notice the odd sight. Since then, cars and passersby slow down to get a peek at the Christmas miracle.
Although the tree acts as a sign of hope and comfort, things are still looking bleak in Defiance. One person has died from the tragedy, and another two are injured. However, people within the community are inspired by the tree. Local pastor Danny Lybarger says that seeing people come together in the wake of tragedy is amazing. “It’s amazing to see the way that it galvanizes people. It galvanizes people that are progressive and conservative and across all sorts of religious spectrums and all sorts of life experiences.”
Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee, and Missouri were all hit by tornadoes over the weekend. In Kentucky, the death count so far has reached 74, but there are still 109 people that are unaccounted for. Governor Andy Beshear said “This is the deadliest tornado event we have ever had. I think it’s going to be the longest and deadliest tornado event in U.S. history.”
Illinois currently has a death toll of at least six, Tennessee at least four, and at least two in Arkansas.
Tornado Spares an Altar in Kentucky
A Christmas tree in Missouri isn’t the only lasting symbol of hope. In Kentucky, a church altar made it through the tornado with no damage. Mayfield, K.Y. saw egregious amounts of damage after a tornado touched down on Friday, December 10th. Homes, cars, and even a candle factory were all destroyed. Many churches throughout the area also received a large amount of damage.
The altar that survived is also used as the church’s communion table. Many believe the altar to be a sign of hope. The church’s senior minister, Dr. Milton West, said the altar is “the center of our worship experience. It survived along with a cross that sits on it.” The congregation has since joined in the church parking lot to continue their services. More than ever, it’s important to come together as a community regardless of personal beliefs, and Dr. West reinforces that. He states, “Those differences don’t matter when you’re trying to rebuild your lives.”
Mayfield’s mayor had some uplifting things to say, as well. At first glance, Mayor Kathy Stewart O’Nan said it looked like a bomb had been dropped on Mayfield. After the shock began to wear off, she saw something else, though – American flags showing up all over town. She personally picked up a flag out of building debris to give to firefighters, who in turn ceremoniously folded it for safekeeping.
Seeing this brought Mayor O’Nan hope. The symbolism behind the flag is stronger than ever. As they recover, Mayfield will fly it in the spirit of endurance and hope.