Here is an update on some of the Mt. Juliet families who were affected by a deadly tornado last March.
“How am I alive?”
Kerry and Ken Gluck’s three-story colonial home on Fairview Drive in Mt. Juliet was demolished by the tornado. Ken was pinned under a door with part of the ceiling on top of him. His mom, Pearl, 93 at the time, was blown under a desk only seconds after Ken ran to get her as the tornado approached.
They were mostly unharmed, and Mt. Juliet Police Chief James Hambrick, a neighbor, removed glass from Ken’s body at the scene. Ken was a teacher at West Wilson Middle School, which has not been rebuilt. Today the Glucks live in Old Hickory and he teaches West Wilson students at their temporary class space at Mt. Juliet Middle School.
“It was too much destruction,” Gluck said of their former home last week. “It was not the same property, no house, no trees. It just wasn’t the same.”
Pearl still lives with them, but at their new home. Church members donated a car for them to use until they could replace the one damaged in the storm.
“Kerry has a co-worker (at Summtt Medical Center) who was walking to work with her child,” said Ken. “We gave her that car donated to us.”
Before they moved to Old Hickory, they lived in a rental home in Willoughby Station.
“It wasn’t far from the train tracks and every time we heard the train come through, it deeply affected me and my family,” said Ken. “That sound. Just like the tornado.”
Both Kerry and Ken got COVID last October and recovered.
“Today, I think of the loss of what life was,” said Ken. “Where things are now. We had to move on. It’s the human spirit that makes that happen. My father was a Holocaust survivor and he always said as long as you have your life, you always have the ability to rebuild. That has always stayed with me.
“It’s God’s grace we are here.”
Doctors decide to move
The tornado destroyed the N. Mt. Juliet Road office of the longtime family-owned Mt. Juliet Family Vision practice. The doctors who own the practice – brothers Mike Davis and Pete Davis, and Mike’s son, Kevin – decided to open a new facility rather than rebuild on the site.
They expect their new office adjacent to the Mt. Juliet Police Department campus to open later this month.
“We had heard the school (West Wilson Middle School) across the street had been hit hard,” Kevin Davis said. “We (his dad and uncle) met at the Dairy Queen and started walking to our office to check it out. I will never forget turning the corner and seeing the destruction of not only our office, but everywhere.
“It’s bittersweet. A lot of history was with the old building. But the sweet side is we have built from scratch with a good flow and new features.”
The new facility will be 4,200 square feet with six exam rooms, testing offices and a dispensary.
Together in life and death
James Eaton, 84, and his wife, Donna Eaton, 81, were married for 58 years and died together in their bed after the tornado destroyed their longtime home on Catalpa Drive in Mt. Juliet.
“Jimmy” would have been 85 the next day. They were found side by side on a mattress thrown from their bed. They had three children, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
“Obviously, the tornado was life changing for so many,” former Mt. Juliet Mayor Ed Hagerty, who said he knew the Eatons for nearly 40 years, said last week. “The recovery is still ongoing. I feel badly for those effected but at the same time, I’m impressed with their ability to cope and adapt. It gives me strength to see the human spirit and drive when dealing with difficult circumstances.
“They (Eatons) were a shining example of a dedicated Christian marriage, family, and faithful members of this community. I would love to play golf and talk with Jim Eaton again.”
First Baptist Associate Minister David Fallin met the couple when he moved to Mt. Juliet in 1998. He said the church had a remembrance ceremony last December for the Eatons.
Brock and the fire chief
After the tornado, Fire Department of Mt. Juliet Chief Jamie Luffman was directing emergency operations when he met a little boy that he will never forget.
Brock was in a neighborhood hit hard by the tornado, with his parents Meagan and Robert. Luffman said they were trying to get out of the rubble with Brock, but he knew live electrical wires and other dangers were in the way of their goal of meeting Brock’s grandma on the other side of Mt. Juliet Road.
Luffman offered to carry Brock to safety.
“It’s hard to believe we are coming up on the year anniversary of the night that changed our lives,” Meagan Maxwell said recently. “Although it was an unexpected tragedy, we also witnessed unexpected unity from the community and help at every turn. We are so fortunate for Chief Luffman and his crew.”
Luffman said only that he was doing his job.
“They handed me their most prize possession,” he said with some emotion.
Brock and Luffman had a reunion recently.
“He recognized this old chief,” Luffman said.