In front of a small stage powered by a generator, hundreds gathered at a prayer vigil Tuesday night after a deadly tornado plowed through their small town of Mayfield, Kentucky.
The twister was part of a larger storm system that spun off 30 tornadoes across Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee, killing at least 90 people.
With thoughts toward those who have lost so much, attendees sang the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace” as they lit a candle in remembrance. Haley Conder was among the faces illuminated by the small candle flame.
And the sight of so many candles brought back vivid memories.
She was working night shift at the Mayfield Consumer Products candle factory when the tornado hit Friday, endangering the 101 individuals on duty. Eight workers died, and many others were injured. Some were trapped in the rubble for hours.
“It happened so fast and the impact hit us so hard … the building literally collapsed on top of all of us,” said Conder. One moment she saw people run towards her in the bathroom; the next, she looked up at an empty sky. The twister she faced was the largest of the ones that touched down throughout the Midwest Friday, stretching over 200 miles.
While Tuesday’s vigil brought people from around Mayfield together to pay tribute to those who lost friends, family members and homes, 19 chaplains from the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team were available to offer comfort and pray with those grappling with their new reality.
“These people came together as one, in spite of their background or their beliefs … to seek the Lord and to pray for each other,” said Frank Metallo, who’s serving as chaplain coordinator with his wife, Jennifer, for this deployment. “There was unity, in spite of the pain.”
Matallo hopes the event reminded people “it matters what you’re going through—we’re here to help.”
And that’s exactly what Haley Conder felt.
“This helped,” she said, referring to the vigil.
“It’s just one of those things, we come together as a family. … I’m seeing people I saw running towards me in the bathroom here tonight. You know, it’s a relief.”
At the end of the 30-minute service, Conder and her coworkers released eight balloons into the dark sky in remembrance of each individual who lost a life in the factory collapse.
“It was very hard, but we’re alive and we’re here today and that’s what we can be thankful for. We’ll rebuild, but I think for a lot of us, we’re always going to be [the] night shift crew. Regardless of where we’re at or where we’re working—we’re still going to have to have a part in each other’s lives.”
Looking for a way to help those recovering from the recent tornadoes? Help offer comfort to hurting communities.
Do you have hope even in the midst of loss? Find peace with God.