COOKEVILLE, Tenn. — When EF-4 twisters ripped through Middle Tennessee the morning of March 3, they took almost everything from the people of Cookeville.

Homes were destroyed. Lives were upended and 24 of them were lost forever.

Not even ten days after that disaster though, another one came crashing into survivors' lives.

"It's two shocks, you know one right after the other," survivor Gary Bean told 10News over the phone.


The coronavirus global pandemic has shifted the world we live in, and made recovering from the devastation of the tornadoes that much more difficult.

As people adhere to government sanctioned shelter in place mandates and practice social distancing, adjusting to this new normal can take an emotional toll. These are just more changes on top of an already shifted reality for people who endured the Election Day tornadoes.

"Everybody’s in shock one more time. It’s going to take that much more time to get back on your feet.” Bean said.

RELATED: 'We would've died' || Putnam County man describes the moment an EF-4 tornado destroyed his home in seconds

Survivors now have to balance the ramifications of back-to-back disasters; one that menaces slow and methodical throughout the corners of the earth, and another which slammed forcefully into one specific part of it.

"We've been doing the best we can. Considering everything. " Bean said.

Bean lost his home in the Election Day tornadoes and currently lives in a motel with his son. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, he has watched with trepidation as two numbers climb steadily higher; the amount of confirmed COVID-19 cases and his blood pressure.

"I had to go to the emergency room one day because of it. I ended up at the doctor's office for a couple of days," he told 10News over the phone.

The culprit? Stress and anxiety, doctors said.

"I haven't been getting out much. I'm still in a motel. In the beginning, I was worried I wouldn't find a place for temporary housing. Everything had filled up so fast," he said.


Dealing with these uncertainties on top of the necessary precautions coronavirus necessitates is isolating, lonely, and exhausting. What small hopes for the future survivors had after the storm have been clouded by the uncertainty of COVID-19, but they are necessary to hold onto.

"We want to rebuild our house in the same location. I'm looking forward to it very much so," Bean said.

Cookeville High School senior Jazzlinn Cojin was rescued from rubble when her bedroom's brick walls collapsed on top of her the morning of March 3.

Jazlinn Cojin
Jazlinn Cojin

In the immediate aftermath of the tornado, she also found hope in the form of things to look forward to - pillars of normalcy not even a storm could take away.

There was the promise of prom, watching the winter of her last high school semester fade to spring, and senior skip day. Then the coronavirus took those things, too.

"At the start of this year I remember saying, 'Oh 2020's gonna my year! And everything's gonna go great!' Now everything's been changed so much that I don't even know if those things that I was looking forward to so much will happen at all," she said.

Bean and Cojin have both successfully adhered to the rules of social distancing in spaces which are not their homes. It has not been an easy process.

"It's a whole lot of anxiety and depression and stress. But I'll get through it. I'll get through it," Bean said.

Survivors do still find hope in some things. Bean said while he is isolated from his community, he has not felt abandoned by it. Despite social distancing, he still feels that outpouring of love and care.

"The community has been wonderful here," Bean said. "A lot of the volunteers are not out right now doing things like they were because of social distancing but I believe once this passes things will go back. And things will get better.

Cojin, too, believes things will get better. In the meantime, she has turned to a talent that proved as valuable in the aftermath of the tornado as in quarantine.

"When I got back to drawing, it gave me a sense of familiarity. And it just gives me a sense of peace in this time that has been so distraught. It brings me back to a place where I can be at peace and comfort," she said.

In the early morning of March 4, when Cojin saw for the first time how her home had been ravaged by the tornado, she took black paint to the still-standing side of her bedroom.

She crafted a clear message. At the time, she did not know what the future held. But if her message stood then as a reminder to her family, it is one that can resonate with the rest of the world now.

We Are Strong Together, it read.

We Are Strong Together
Jazlinn Cojin, 17, stands behind a hand-painted mural she crafted onto the wall of her old bedroom.
Madison Stacey

RELATED: Strong Together | Voices from the Putnam County Twister