Written by: Cuthbert Langley, South Carolina Region
Pictures by: Kristen Perdue, Virginia Region
“It just happened.”
Ten-year-old Tanner said it happened in seconds. He was watching television with his mom in their Hopkinsville, Kentucky apartment around 9:30 p.m. on February 24. In almost an instant, they had to make a run for their lives.
“The lights just turned off, and then my mom said the wind was really blowing,” said Tanner. “She just started pulling my arm and we went out.”
They ran out of their apartment into the hallway after a tornado ripped through the complex. The family watched from underneath the apartment’s stairwell as part of the ceiling caved in. Tanner stood next to his younger neighbors and quickly realized he needed to help them.
|Larissa, Tanner's mother, speaks with Mary Summers,|
Regional Preparedness Manager for the Kentucky Region
“They were really scared and really nervous, and he put his arm around [their] shoulders, and he was like, ‘everything’s going to be fine. We’re safe here under the stairs.’ He was amazing, just amazing,” his mom, Larissa, said.
Turns out, just a couple of weeks before the tornado hit, Tanner participated in the Red Cross Pillowcase Project at his school, South Christian Elementary taught by Kathy Hayes, a Red Cross volunteer. Thanks to a grant from Disney, the Red Cross, and volunteers, like Kathy, are able to teach 3rd-5th graders preparedness tips for local emergencies. Tanner learned during Kathy’s presentation about tornado safety, including picking a safety spot—the apartment’s stairwell—where he could meet his family outside of his home.
The program also teaches coping skills to help kids through those emergencies. Tanner used some of those same skills to help his younger neighbors.
“[Mrs. Hayes] said breathe in, breathe out.”
|Volunteer Kathy Hayes presents Tanner with a new|
pillowcase and emergency supplies.
In addition to learning about skills, Kathy gave the children a pillowcase they could decorate and use as place to store their own emergency kits. However, she taught Tanner and his classmates to leave the pillowcase behind in “act fast” emergencies, like tornadoes, when there is no time to spare.
That’s a message Tanner remembered that night.
“I wanted my pillowcase, but I didn’t [grab it],” Tanner said.
Hayes also promised the children that, if they lose their pillowcase due to a disaster, she would replace it. She followed through on her promise and met Tanner to replace his pillowcase.
In the backroom of the Red Cross chapter, Tanner quickly sat down and began decorating his pillowcase. He excitedly looked through all of the emergency supplies Kathy made sure he received.
“It did make a huge impression on him,” his mother said with a smile.
Tanner and his mom are now living with family while they search for a new place to live. The family will continue to work with Red Cross caseworkers to create their recovery plans.