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Washington, D.C. – The fallout from the multiple tornadoes that hit our state left us grieving, surrounded by debris and destruction. When I woke up to the news Tuesday morning, I knew I had to return home. I flew to Nashville and went straight to the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency’s (TEMA) state emergency operations center.
I met TEMA Director Patrick Sheehan, Major General Jeff Holmes and others who walked me through the initial reports and briefed me on what assets were needed on the ground. TEMA was so well prepared, there was not an overwhelming need for food or water.
At the emergency operations center, I thanked our emergency workers for all their hard work. There I heard the story of EMS employee Brandon Ward.
Despite having his home destroyed, Brandon brought his dog Pepper to the operations center overnight so he could report for duty the next day. His dedication to service reminds me what it means to be “Tennessee Strong.” I shared this story with 99.7 SuperTalk WTN’s Brian Wilson.
Early Wednesday morning, I visited displaced families at the Red Cross Centennial Sportsplex shelter in Nashville. There I met a volunteer paramedic who drove all the way from Bowling Green, Kentucky to Nashville to lend a hand. She pledged to stay at her post until things slowed down.
It is hard to imagine what the people of Putnam County have gone through until you see firsthand that the life’s work of this community has been completely destroyed. Sheriff Eddie Farris walked me through the destroyed neighborhoods. We met service members who took leave to help with the cleanup efforts, and hopeful residents who had just fixed a flagpole and raised the American flag.
I heard from local officials that critical communications equipment and fiber lines were destroyed, and about their urgent need for additional cell towers. My office immediately communicated with local officials and requested temporary cell tower resources.
The road to recovery will be a long one, and it will take a lot of time and resources to rebuild our communications infrastructure. This is why I will continue to push the Connecting Communities Post Disasters Act, which I introduced last year to remove burdensome red tape and allow companies to quickly rebuild their communications infrastructure in the wake of a natural disaster.
In Wilson County, Mayor Randall Hutto and EMS, fire and law enforcement officials briefed us on the latest recovery efforts before we surveyed the areas hardest hit.
The entire Tennessee delegation wrote a letter in support of Governor Bill Lee’s request for a major disaster declaration for the Volunteer State. We are grateful President Donald Trump quickly granted this request, which will help provide federal funding dedicated to recovery efforts in Tornado-affected counties.
On Friday, I returned to Tennessee with President Trump, Representative John Rose (R-TN), and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) to survey the damage and help our communities begin to heal.
In Cookeville, we visited a street where residents experienced a significant loss of life. In spite of everything, the President ’s visit really lifted everyone’s spirits–especially those of our first responders and local officials.
At Jefferson Ave Church of Christ, we met with first responders who ran toward the danger and pulled Tennesseans to safety. President Trump also met with survivors and told the group, “We are with you all the way.”
Normal will not happen overnight. But we will recover. We will rebuild and show this country what it means to be a Tennessean.
Latest On The Coronavirus
Congress just took a big step in combating the coronavirus via an emergency funding surge for public health officials. The next step? Diversifying our supply chain to ensure we are not vulnerable to disruption. Relying on China to provide things like prescription drugs, or the rare earths materials used to make smartphones, leaves American consumers exposed during times like this.
I look forward to working with lawmakers to get our prescription drug supply out of China and India, and into trusted laboratories in the United States.
Click here for more information regarding the coronavirus in Tennessee.
Stay In Touch
As a reminder, you can reach any of my six offices in Tennessee to share a concern or request assistance with a federal agency. Stay tuned for an announcement on the opening of our new Nashville office.
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TopicsBill Lee, Bowling Green KY, China, cookeville TN, Coronavirus, Davidson County, Donald J. Trump, Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA, Jeff Holmes, Lamar Alexander, Marsha Blackburn, Nashville, Nashville TN, Putnam County, SBA, TEMA, Tennessee, Tennessee Emergency Management Agency, Tennessee Governor, Tornado, tornadoes, U.S. President, U.S. Senator, U.S. Small Business Administration, United States, Washington D.C., Wilson County
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