A week ago today, a severe, record-breaking tornado outbreak exploded across portions of Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky; while tragedy was all too common in this region, one tragic tale unfolded on Facebook documenting the life and sadly, the death, of a young girl.
The tornado outbreak that would ultimately claim more than 85 lives was well forecast and warned. While the severe weather started impacting communities late into Friday evening / early Saturday morning, one woman in Dawson, Kentucky took to Facebook to express her angst.
Jackie Koon, who shared her Facebook account with her husband Douglas, wrote, “Hope everyone stays safe tonight. I’m kinda freaking out.” The comment was liked more than 1,000 times.
The Koon family took shelter in Jackie’s mother’s house. Unfortunately, like much of the region, the neighborhood and the house they sheltered in was destroyed by violent tornadoes that moved through the area. Immediately before the tornado struck, they huddled together in a bathroom. To provide their baby girl, Oaklynn, additional protection, they placed her in her car seat with them in the bathroom.
“Oh Lord please be with us,” Jackie Koon wrote on Facebook. “My moms house is gone. We was in the bathroom and we all went flying and ended up way on the other end of our neighbors house. My poor babies. Nothing is more scarier than knowing a tornado is heading your way and hearing your kids freaked out and thinking we are going to die. To Bentley having a seizure [sic]. If Oaklynn wasn’t in her car seat she wouldn’t be here today. Still here at the hospital. You really never think you would be the one that goes threw something like this. Man hold your loved ones tight. I’m surprised we all made it out alive. I never imagined having to go threw this in life.”
According to an interview he made with MSNBC after the tornado, Douglas Koon said he searched through the rubble, “guided by the crying and moaning” to collect his family that was scattered about in the debris field. “It’s the most traumatic thing I’ve ever been through; I felt like I was helpless in protecting my kids against it,” Douglas Koon said in his interview.
Douglas would find his daughter out in the open, still strapped inside her car seat. She was bruised and bloodied, at when found, seemed to have survived the tornado OK.
The rest of the family was also injured with gashes into their faces and bodies. Miraculously, though, all survived the impact to the house they were in.
Unfortunately, Oaklynn’s condition quickly soured. “She has declined through the night. Having seizures activity. Did a CT again and they are saying they [sic] see a small bleed and something else going on,” Jackie Koon wrote in a Facebook update. “I don’t know how much more I can take. Trying to stay calm.”
While her daughter was in the hospital and not improving, Jackie took to Facebook to write another update; apparently, people were stealing from her family’s remains at the tornado destruction site. “And a PSA whoever these people are breaking into my car and other peoples vehicles! your a piece of and us Dawson people have been threw enough. Shame on you”
While their son Dallas was discharged on December 12, Oaklynn’s condition deteriorated further. “It’s not looking good guys at all,” Jackie wrote in a Facebook update. “The machines are keeping her alive. Her head swelled really bad. She doesn’t have activity. So now where going to have to make a decision. I can’t believe I’m writing this write now and I know I haven’t got back to everyone. I’ve gotten so much love for my family. Donations, prayers, call, texts. We love you guys. It really does take a village. Wish I was saying better news and I really thought this was by far of what the outcome was going to be. I’m in shock, my heart feels absolutely shattered. We love you Oakie “
Sadly, Oaklynn did pass away. Jackie wrote a brief Facebook post: “Miss Oaklynn. passed away “
The following day, Jackie expressed her sadness and guilt on Facebook. “But I can’t even tell you how I feel inside. Dallas and Bentley are doing good. My mom is doing good also just really sore. We got power at my house yesterday. My heart goes out to Dawson there are so many other people that are in need. This type of stuff makes me lose my faith because why would this tragedy happen. Why? I felt like I failed my baby and couldn’t protect everyone “
Jackie shared photographs of her wounded family on Facebook on December 15. “Everyone is healing,” she wrote, adding “But everyone still hurts emotionally and physically This was a monster!” The pictures showed extensive bruises over the bodies of Jackie’s husband, son, and mother; it also showed how staples and stitches were used to aid in the healing of the family members that survived the tornado.
As the family recovers, plans are underway for Oaklynn’s funeral. Funeral services are planned for 2pm Sunday, December 19th at the Barnett-Strother Funeral Home in Madisonville. Burial will follow in Rosedale Cemetery in Dawson Springs. Visitation will be from 1pm until the service time on Sunday at the funeral home.
To help the family, relative Priscila Menjivar organized a GoFundMe to raise funds for the family. She wrote, “As many of you know a tornado swept through Dawson Springs last night but unfortunately, like many families, my uncle and his family were truly affected by this. Him, his wife, three children and his mother-in-law were all in his mother-in-law’s house when it ripped through. Although, they were hunkered down they were all thrown from the house and into the neighbor’s yard…. Sadly, his mother-in-law only has her wallet and phone left, absolutely nothing else. Although, we are so very grateful that they are all still here with us we would greatly appreciate any help as she will be starting all over again. Thank you for any donations made.”
As of the publication of this article, more than $139,000 was raised towards a $140,000 goal. The GoFundMe can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/m6e5k
In addition to sending funds via GoFundMe, items can also be send to Douglas and Jackie Koon, and Jackie’s mother, Sheila Rose, at this address:
The UPS Store
Care of Douglas & Jackie Koon
229 Madison Square Drive
Madisonville, KY 42431
While Jackie and her family are still dealing with the aftermath of the tornado, she continues to keep friends and strangers updated on Facebook. Today she shared an update on their puppy who survived the tornado “without a scratch.”
“Idk if anyone else knew but Bailey our puppy we got that is just a few weeks away Oder than oaklynn was. Was with us during the tornado. And she made it out without a scratch on her. She is being loved and housed with family right now until everything calms down. But today we got to visit with her. I love her so much. I hate that her and oaklynn don’t get to grow up with each other. “