- The Washington Times - Friday, February 8, 2008

CASTALIAN SPRINGS, Tenn. (AP) — Rescuers thought it was a doll. Then it moved.

In a grassy pasture strewn with toys, splintered lumber and bricks tossed by the tornado’s widespread wrath, 11-month-old Kyson Stowell was lying face down in the mud, 150 yards from where his home once stood.

“It looked like a baby doll,” said David Harmon, a firefighter who had already combed the field once looking for survivors. Then he checked for a pulse. “He was laying there motionless and he took a breath of air and started crying.”

After the initial search, finding anyone alive seemed improbable. Hours after the storm, there was devastation everywhere: The body of the boy’s mother was found in the same field, houses were wiped to concrete slabs and a brick post office was blown to bits. But except for a few scrapes, Kyson was fine.

At a makeshift shelter for storm victims at Hartsville Pike Church of Christ in nearby Gallatin, the Rev. Doyle Farris said the child was a reminder that people “should never give up, even in the midst of the worst storm.”

“If you look, you can find an inspiration or a bright spot,” he said. “The child will always be a reminder in this community of that message.”

Kyson’s story emerged as a tale of hope amid spectacular misery as residents in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas tried to piece their lives back together after the nation’s deadliest twister rampage in two decades killed 58 persons.

The extent of the damage was still being tallied yesterday, two days after the storms.

Federal and state emergency teams dashed into the hardest-hit areas, along with utility workers and insurance claims representatives. President Bush, who said he called the governors of the affected states to offer support, planned to visit Tennessee today.

Though homes were destroyed, communities flattened and loved ones lost, there were signs everywhere that recovery was possible. Food and clothes began pouring in for the homeless.

In Greenville, Ky., Samantha Oakley, 18, gave birth to a healthy 7-pound, 1-ounce son in the dark soon after the storm knocked out power at Muhlenberg Community Hospital. As the lights went out, doctors “hollered ‘flashlights,’ and nurses took off and got one,” the baby’s grandmother, Vicki Reed, said.

Charity efforts were beginning for those who lost their homes.

Many businesses were destroyed along Main Street in Gassville, Ark., but at the Citgo Mini-Mart, coffee was brewing.

In Castalian Springs, Kyson was discharged from a hospital and in the care of his grandparents.

There were countless stories of people relieved to be alive. James Krueger, an electrician, opened the door to look out of the 100-year-old home he was restoring and the wind sucked the door from his hand. He dived onto the ground “as if I was sliding into first.” The house was pulled out from under him — and when it was over, he was on bare ground.

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