U.S. | Go to Canada Site

“I’m going to go outside and ride my bike!” Five-year-old Colten Richardson excitedly described the first thing he’ll do when he moves with his family—his mother Brittany, his 8-year-old sister, and his 12-year-old brother—into a new home that’s being constructed by MDS volunteers.

“I’m going to move in my toys—I have a castle, and a unicorn!” he added.

His mother smiled: “I think the unicorn is your sister’s,” she said, drawing a chuckle from MDS volunteers who are listening to the family’s story of surviving a massive tornado that destroyed half of their community, Dawson Springs, Kentucky, on Dec. 10, 2021.

With his bright smile and buoyant outlook, Colten’s tornado recovery may seem complete.

But, like nearly everyone else in town, he’s still dealing with trauma. “Colten goes into a full-blown panic attack any time the wind picks up,” said Brittany. Her son was three years old in when the tornado destroyed their home, upended their lives, and changed the way they see a community that once was, as Brittany said, “a place where nothing bad ever happened.”

In the town of about 2,400 people, half the dwellings were leveled. “When you live there your whole life, and you seen things gone, and you don’t recognize roads, it’s very emotional,” said the 33-year-old preschool teacher. “Parents ask me all the time how to help their kids deal and cope,” she said.

“I’m going to move in my toys—I have a castle, and a unicorn!”

— Colten Richardson - 5 Year Old

Children have held onto the trauma for a long time, Brittany has noticed. “The first time we did a tornado drill at the school half of my kids went into a a complete panic,” she said.

Yet the family—and the community—is finding a way to move forward into lives that may never be the same, but will be full of love for family and community.

Brittany and the children barely salvaged anything from their house—but they believe they got what means the most. “My grandparents passed away before COVID and before the tornado,” she said. “My grandmom was into angels, and my granddad was into bald eagles—and we were able to salvage some to move to the new house.”

On two of the angels, handwritten at the bottom, are the words: “I love you. Meemaw.”

With the house scheduled to be complete before the children begin their school year, the family—who first lived in a Federal Emergency Management trailer, then with relatives—is looking ahead.

“I’m going to sit back and breathe a sigh of relief,” said Brittany. “I will never have to move again.”


Written by Susan Kim, MDS Writer

News & Stories

See More News & Stories