FRANKFORT — Rain can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. It can be a conversation icebreaker, a shower for wilting plants, an inconvenience for your workday commute or fun puddles for children to play in. Last week, rain took on a new meaning for Johnson County. Rain meant life-changing devastation.
The horrific flash flooding in eastern Kentucky, specifically in the Flat Gap community of Johnson County, forever changed the lives of many. When I arrived on the ground last Tuesday morning, the reality of the situation was stunning. Houses were not only damaged from the flooding waters, but completely uprooted from their foundations and washed miles away. Homes were smashed into tractor-trailers akin to a scene from a science fiction movie; possessions, heirlooms and memories hidden under the mud.
After touring the impacted areas, we gathered together, at that time still working with search and rescue teams, to look for survivors. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small child holding a baby doll alone next to the road. Her eyes were wide with astonishment and for the first time, I saw what she saw. Through the eyes of a child, whose entire world was there in that low tract of land, all seemed surreally lost.
Thankfully, it is in moments of devastation that humanity shines. It did not take weeks or days for aide to arrive, it took hours. Neighbors, from a half mile to 300 miles away, came to Johnson County to search for survivors, clean up wreckage and rebuild with new supplies. People from far and wide donated time, talents, and money. People prayed continuously. Although the aftermath is terrible and the damage unimaginable, all is not lost. Humanity prevailed.
I want to express appreciation to the volunteers, organizers and leaders who have given selflessly to ease the pain of those in need. There is still much to be done. Donations are being accepted at the Johnson County High School and the county clerk’s office. Many local churches are organizing cleanup efforts. If you are able, please do what you can. Let us continue to band together to rebuild and show the next generation, especially that small girl clutching her doll that all is not lost, and hope is very much alive.
Sen. Brandon Smith (R-Hazard) represents the 30th District including Bell, Breathitt, Johnson, Leslie, Magoffin, and Perry counties. He is the vice-chair of the Transportation Committee; the Vice-Chair of the Natural Resources and Energy Committee; and a member of Appropriations and Revenue Committee.