KENTUCKY, USA — The December 2021 tornado outbreak changed the lives of thousands of people in Kentucky.
For dozens of families, their lives were altered by the loss of a loved one. In total, 80 people were killed across the commonwealth.
Now, those families and friends are doing what they can to keep their memories alive. For weeks after the devastating tornadoes, their photos hung on a fence outside the Graves County Courthouse, a reminder of those lost in the storms.
Oaklynn Koon, 2-months-old
Oaklynn and her family were hiding in the bathroom in Dawson Springs when they were sucked out and blown across the street by strong winds.
Her father, Douglass Koon, painstakingly tended to each member of his family, including his mother-in-law, 11-year-old son Bentley with autism and 4-year-old son Dallas who were buried in debris.
The rest of the family has since recovered from their injuries.
"I'm going to miss her crying in the middle of the night, waking me up," Douglass said. "I'm going to miss her not wanting to be put down, wanting mommy and daddy to hold her. I'm just going to miss her in general."
Jha'lil Dunbar, 3
Huda Alubahi was holding a tight grip around her 3-year-old son Jha’lil and one-year-old boy Julius when the tornado ripped through their Mayfield home.
The family was hiding in the bathroom when the entire house collapsed on top of them.
Jill Monroe, 52
At the Mayfield Candle Factory, 13 people were killed including Oldham County native Jill Monroe.
Jill's co-workers told her family that she was trying to protect others when the storm hit.
"She said 'the last time I saw your mom, she ran into the last stall and took a bunch of people with her. We all laid down and tried to hold on,'" Chris Chism, her son, told WHAS11.
Robert Daniel, 47
In Graves County, members of the sheriff's office spent the days after the storm not only helping their community, but honoring deputy jailer Robert Daniel.
"A lot of our employees there at the jail have found ways to keep his memory alive, whether its stickers or something like that. To just remember him," Graves County Chief Deputy Jeremy Prince said.
Robert was supervising incarcerated people from Graves County jail on work release at the Mayfield Candle Factory when it collapsed.
Nyssa Brown, 13
Nyssa was the seventh member of her family to die in the tornado that hit Bowling Green. Authorities said her father, mother, three siblings and grandmother were all killed in the storm.
It took days to find the young teenager's body in the rubble.
Fourteen people died within a few blocks in one Bowling Green subdivision.
- Mae F. White , 77
- Cory Scott, 27, of Rockfield, Kentucky
- Victoria Smith, 64
- Rachel Brown, 36
- Steven Brown, 35
- Nariah Cayshelle Brown, 16
- Nolynn Brown, child
- Nyles Brown, 4
- Alisa Besic, adult (no specific age given)
- Selmir Besic, child
- Elma Besic, child
- Samantha Besic, infant
- Alma Besic, infant
- Robert Williams, 65
- Say Meh, 42
Marsha Hall, 72, and Carole Grisham, 80
Jason Cummins spent days gathering mementos from the debris of the home his mom, Marsha, and aunt, Carole, shared.
The sisters had chose to stay put in their home, which lacked a basement, as the tornado barreled through the town.
The sisters were fixtures in Dawson Springs who had worked at a local funeral home helping others through their grief.
Billy and Judy Miller, 73 and 72
Billy and Judy had been married for 50 years and died when the Bowling Green tornado went through Muhlenberg County.
After decades together, their granddaughter, Serenity, said the light never dimmed.
"They grew really deep bonds after the loss of two of their children and that bond - I don't think anyone could break," Serenity said.
The couple's home had been reduced to dirt and cinder blocks.
"They passed away together," Serenity said. "Holding on to each other."
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