Alexander: Tennesseans Continue to Show Our “Volunteer Spirit”

Posted on March 9, 2020

WASHINGTON, March 9, 2020 – United States Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said Tennesseans continue to show the “Volunteer spirit,” by helping each other after the catastrophic storms on March 3.

Alexander joined President Donald Trump, Governor Bill Lee, Senator Marsha Blackburn and Congressman John Rose on Friday to visit with Tennesseans who were impacted by the tornadoes, and he discussed that visit today on the Senate floor:

“Cookeville is obviously a very close knit community. …They are what I would call ‘salt of the earth people,’ really good people – a very close knit community whose first reaction and whose reaction the day we were there, three days later, was how can we help each other. The next heroes were the first responders -- we met with many of them in Cookeville. The next were the volunteers – they turned out by the hundreds.”

Alexander told the story of Rick Gilbert, who was the disaster relief coordinator for the Jefferson Ave. Church of Christ in downtown Cookeville. “Rick talked to me about what they had there, but he didn’t have to tell me. I could see it stacked high with boxes, almost everything imaginable that someone could want. ‘Whatever they needed’ is what he said they tried to give the people who came there,” Alexander said.

“These Tennesseans were very grateful for the visit by President Trump. It was more than the fact that this was the first time any president of the United States had visited Cookeville, Tennessee. …The president stayed there for a long time, and he listened, and they [Tennesseans] appreciated it very much. …He and the other federal officials announced a [disaster] declaration in, what seemed to me, to be record time, so, by the time we were there on Friday, there already were federal emergency management personnel on the ground in Tennessee, and there were multiple shelters already open.

“We know we can't resolve this, we can't make things like they used to be. We know we can't give Tennesseans all the help that they need, but we're here. And I think that's really all they [Tennesseans] expected or wanted. …I thank the president, other federal officials and all the volunteers who want to help, we greatly appreciate what they’ve done.”

Last Thursday, President Trump quickly approved the federal disaster assistance the Tennessee congressional sent him for the Tennessee counties impacted by the catastrophic tornadoes on March 3.

Alexander concluded his remarks today by reading excerpts from a New York Times opinion editorial by Margaret Renkl: “This is a truth we all instinctively recognize. That random funnel cloud of death and destruction could have happened anywhere — it could come for any of us any time. And while we understand that we have not been singled out by God for survival, we also understand that we can be God’s hands here in the rubble, helping our neighbors dig out.”

For Tennesseans seeking help, more information can be found on the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency’s website: https://www.tn.gov/tema/get-involved/flooding-and-severe-weather-response.html

 ###