Another story of loss after late November tornado - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Another story of loss after late November tornado

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A week and a half after an EF-3 tornado tore through Ocoee, the small town is still in shock and part of it in ruins.

Karen Gatlin was raised here. It broke her heart to see her childhood home destroyed.

"To know that you'll never go through the doorway again is very difficult," says Gatlin as she starts to cry. "It's very difficult. But life has to go on, and that's what you do."

She's thankful life also goes on for her mother, Annette, who was still living in the house. By the time Gatlin arrived from her home in Cleveland, her mother had been rescued by emergency services.

"They had to crawl inside the house through the window and they pulled her back out of the house through the bathroom window," explains Gatlin.

She barely had a scratch on her but was taken to the hospital as a precaution.

"She's shaken and it's difficult because she loved her home," says Gatlin. It's been in the family for 70 years. "She loved her home and she loved the things in it. She worked her whole life for this. To see it in a pile of rubble is very difficult."

Gatlin was able to grab just one photo album, but many memories are now buried and lost forever. However, the family is still together.

"I hate it that other people weren't so fortunate," adds Gatlin. "Amazingly, my mother is okay."

She's been overwhelmed by the community's response.

"Everyone has helped so wonderfully here, and I'm very grateful for that. And I know other people are, too," says Gatlin.

Gatlin's mother is living with family for a while in nearby Benton. She plans to rebuild on the same property.

If you'd like to help the Polk County relief and clean up effort, please make a donation to the United Way Ocoee Region. The following items are needed: laundry detergent, mops, buckets, garbage bags, brooms, and cleaning supplies. They can be dropped off at 85 Ocoee Street SE in Cleveland, TN.

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