‘I thought it was the end for us all:’ Tornado survivors in Mayfield share their stories

Many in Mayfield are still trying to process what happened in their community. Some said they are lucky to be alive.
Published: Dec. 13, 2021 at 5:57 PM EST
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MAYFIELD, Ky. (WKYT) - Many in Mayfield are still trying to process what happened in their community. Some said they are lucky to be alive.

In the immediate aftermath of the tornadoes, there was concern of dozens missing in a collapsed candle factory in Mayfield.

A spokesperson said that no longer is the case, as many have been accounted for. Eight have died, and eight are still missing.

Chance Pitts said there’s been a lot to think about these last couple 16 days. In the moments of the roofing caving in on him, he thought he was going to die.

“I thought it was the end for us all,” Pitts said.

Pitts was working at the factory when Friday’s tornado hit. He and his co-workers ran for their lives as the building started to shake.

“We started feeling a whole lot of pressure in the building, then the building shifted two or three times. At that point in time, most of us took off running back to the double doors to get back into the hallway. I heard my supervisor holler, ‘drop!’ and as soon as we went to drop down, the whole building just come on top of us,” Pitts said.

It’s in that moment Pitts thought he was going to die.

“Soon as the building hit me, I started praying to God and crying. Then after that stopped, I was able to get my phone out and call my wife. I told her I loved her and didn’t know if I was going to make it home or not,” Pitts said.

Pitts and his wife are okay. They’ve lost a lot, but they have each other and their family, while others are mourning lives taken far too soon.

“One of them was a 22-year-old man. He ain’t even gotten to see or experience life yet. You know what I mean? It does, it gets to me,” Pitts said.

Pitts is taking it day by day as he copes with the loss of some of his co-workers, and praying for a miracle for the ones still missing.

The Lexington Fire Department is part of the search and rescue efforts at the candle factory. Mayor Linda Gorton said 17 members of the Urban Search and Rescue Team are there working in shifts looking for those who are still unaccounted for.

Another survivor is a Vietnam War veteran, who said he took shelter in one of just two places in his home that wasn’t significantly damaged.

“I prayed before it came, I prayed after it came. I have never seen something scare me so bad,” David Turner said.

Turner’s home is essentially gone, just a skeleton of splintered wood and fallen bricks.

“It seemed like it picked this house up, and couldn’t take it all, so it ripped the roof, the ceilings, everything out of there,” Turner said.

The tornado ripped the roof off much of Turner’s home. He said what saved his life, was taking shelter in his hallway.

“Only ceiling that’s left in there is the hallway and the bathroom,” Turner said.

Like a lot of people in Mayfield, Turner is counting his blessings as he walks through what is left of his home and saving what he can, knowing there are people in this community who lost so much more.

“Me in my lifetime, I’ve never been through anything like that. I’m just lucky. I’m a very, very lucky person to be alive today because I know a bunch of people didn’t make it,” Turner said.

It could be days, if not longer, before we know more concrete numbers of those we lost from these storms. Graves County appears to be the hardest hit with at least 20 people killed.

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