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Damage from an EF-4 tornado surrounds the Double Springs Church of Christ.
National
Photo by Brittany Collins

Tennessee church mourning the lost, helping neighbors recover

A couple who recently started attending a Church of Christ in Cookeville is among the victims of Tuesday's tornadoes. This brings to eight the total number of victims with ties to Churches of Christ.

The days are starting to run together for those at the Double Springs Church of Christ in Cookeville, Tenn., as church members work to help their neighbors impacted by the deadly tornadoes earlier this week.

The church building, which is along the edge of the path of Tuesday’s tornado, was spared from damage when an EF4 tornado passed through Putnam County. However, the surrounding neighborhood was hit hard. 

“I grew up in this area, and I‘ve seen tornadoes come through, but we haven’t seen something like this in this area since the mid-70s,” said Eric Collins, minister for the Double Springs church.

Damage from the neighborhood near the Double Springs Church of Christ.

Damage from the neighborhood near the Double Springs Church of Christ.

Collins lives on the other side of town. He said Tuesday morning an alert went off on his phone. He rushed his family to the basement. About an hour later, he put his young daughters back in their beds. It seemed the storm had passed. 

As he climbed back in his own bed, his phone went off again. This time, it was a call alerting him that one of the church’s members was trapped in her basement near the church building. 

He and another minister rushed across town to help, shocked by the scene that unfolded as they arrived. 

One member told Collins he got the same initial alert about the storm on their phone. He got up, went to a window, and as he looked out, the wall of their house knocked him back. The tornado was right on top of him.

“It seems like the warning was too late,” Collins said. 

At least 10 families from the congregation of about 200 members have lost everything. 

Todd and Sue Koehler

Todd and Sue Koehler

Todd and Sue Koehler had been visiting the church for the last three to four months. They  were among the 18 killed in the Cookeville area. Their deaths bring to eight the number of victims with ties to Churches of Christ. Across the state, a total of 24 people were killed.

Collins said he didn’t know the couple well. They were quiet but developing relationships with others in the congregation. 

They had just married in September. 

Sue was a well-known manager at a Walmart not too far away. On Facebook, those who knew her left messages letting her family know she was loved by her co-workers and will be greatly missed. 

The church is actively working in the community surrounding its building. Members have already received a truckload of supplies. Disaster Assistance CoC has also set up nearby, providing meals to the first responders, work crews and volunteers who are working in the area. 

“We’re not only feeding the community and the workers,” Collins said, “we’re working to get supplies out to the community.”

The Double Springs Church of Christ is filled with supplies ready to provide for the needs of their neighbors who lost everything in the tornadoes.

The Double Springs Church of Christ is filled with supplies ready to provide for the needs of their neighbors who lost everything in the tornadoes.

Collins said so far the church has all it needs to provide for the physical needs of those in their community. 

Prayers for members’ emotional healing, he said, are what is now needed most. 

Filed under: Church of Christ Cookeville deadly tornado Double Springs Double Springs church EF-4 National News Todd and Sue Koehler Top Stories Tornado

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