From: TEA President Beth Brown
To: NEA Family
During the early morning hours of March 3rd, strong tornadoes ripped through Nashville, Mt. Juliet, and Putnam County, Tennessee. The damage is catastrophic.
Communities have been leveled and multiple schools have been damaged or destroyed entirely. In Nashville and Mt. Juliet, there were fatalities, but not at the level experienced in Putnam County. Residents in Putnam County had almost no warning before the tornado hit, and the loss of life is gut-wrenching. Nearly two dozen Tennesseans have perished, with 22 residents still unaccounted for.
In Nashville, communities (East Nashville, North Nashville, and Germantown) have been ravaged. Clean up and rebuilding will take a tremendous amount of time and resources. Historic buildings, churches, businesses, and homes have been destroyed, and some schools have been significantly damaged. Schools are closed at least until next week.
In Mt. Juliet, the largest middle school in the state has been decimated, as has the elementary school that stood behind it. The community that the schools serve has also been leveled. There are approximately 2,000 students who have lost both their homes and their schools and will be dispersed throughout the district, spending the remainder of the school year in various churches throughout the county because the district's schools are already overcrowded due to rapid population growth. Several factories, which provided jobs to a large percentage of community members, are gone. Families are left with no homes, no schools, and no workplaces. Schools in Wilson County will reopen on Monday, March 16th.
Putnam County, which includes the town of Cookeville and surrounding rural areas, has experienced the most loss of life, including teachers and students. The schools sustained only minor damage and will reopen on Monday, March 9th, but will immediately begin counseling students and staff members who are grieving. Like in Nashville and Mt. Juliet, there is devastating property damage to homes and businesses.
The lone bright spot in the midst of this tragedy is the inimitable spirit of Tennessee's people. There is a reason we are called the "Volunteer State." People in the affected communities and across the state are coming out to help their neighbors, to grieve, to comfort, and to rebuild.
From the bottom of my heart and on behalf of the Tennessee Education Association, I thank all of you who have asked how you can help with the disaster relief efforts here in Tennessee. Should you feel inclined, here are some ways you can support us as we recover and rebuild:
Hands on Nashville via The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee: cfmt.org
Gideon's Army (focusing on Nashville): gideonsarmyunited.org
Churches of Christ Disaster Relief Fund (focusing on Mt. Juliet and Putnam County): disasterreliefeffort.org
Nourish Food Bank (focusing on Mt. Juliet and Putnam County because they have fewer resources): nourishfoodbanks.org
American Red Cross: redcross.org
(Monetary donations are appreciated, but we also have need of blood donations. Cookeville Regional Hospital ran out of blood and had to transport patients to Nashville.)
Tennesseans also appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and well wishes during this difficult time.
With gratitude and in solidarity,
Beth Brown, President
Tennessee Education Association