Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Robert C. Tashjian, February 17, 2022

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Background information

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Partial Transcript: This interview is part of the Western Kentucky 2021 tornado resilience project.

Segment Synopsis: Tashjian introduces himself as an area extension director in the westernmost counties of Kentucky. Tashjian explains what the extension services are, and how different extension agents help with agriculture, family services, and youth development in all Kentucky counties.

Keywords: Area extension director; Commonwealths; Extension agents; Extension services; Family consumer sciences; Grassroots

Subjects: 4-H clubs; Agriculture.; COVID-19 (Disease); Children.; Crittenden County (Ky.); Crops; Family Nutrition Programs (U.S.); Fulton County (Ky.); Kentucky; Metropolitan areas; Soil science.; Tornadoes.; Youth development

00:02:41 - Night of the tornado

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Partial Transcript: So I guess, uh, you want to take us back to back, that, back to that night and how events unfolded for you.

Segment Synopsis: Tashjian describes the night of the tornado and the immediate impact of the storm. He explains that they were preparing for the storm and watching the weather broadcast until his power went out. Tashjian says he took shelter and was eventually was able to text some of his agents and figure out what was going on and if everyone was safe.

Keywords: Cellphone service; Tornado watch; Weather station

Subjects: Benton (Ky.); Casey County (Ky.); Cell phone systems; Electric power failures; Fulton County (Ky.); Marshall County (Ky.); Mayfield (Ky.); Meteorological stations; Meteorologists; Safety.; Severe storms; Tornado warning systems; Tornadoes.

00:04:57 - Magnitude of damage

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Partial Transcript: So when did you first realize the magnitude and the scope of the damage that had taken place that night?

Segment Synopsis: Tashjian says that the damage he saw was indescribable. He describes how the next morning he and the other extension agents went to volunteer and provide assistance for first responders.

Keywords: Churches; Downtown

Subjects: Church buildings; First responders.; Mayfield (Ky.); National guard; Tornado damage; Tornadoes; Volunteers

00:06:36 - Initial feelings / Responses

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Partial Transcript: What were some, what were some of your feelings?

Segment Synopsis: Tashjian shares his thoughts about the damage from when he arrived in Mayfield. He describes the feeling as gut-wrenching and that he was afraid because of the uncertainty on the number of fatalities. Tashjian explains that had to do a needs assessment in order to begin helping people. Tashjian also talks about receiving donations for the community and how they were able to tell people exactly what they needed instead of being flooded with random donations that may not have been useful for them. He describes the destruction of the local police station, which prompted them to let the police use one of their facilities. Tashjian also talks about some of the long-term issues that they are facing now, such as housing for those displaced during the storm and rebuilding the town itself.

Keywords: Churches; Department of agriculture; Displaced; Extension agents; FEMA; Grassroots; Police department; Rebuilding; Recovery; Storms

Subjects: 4-H clubs; Agriculture.; Arkansas; Church buildings; Farmers.; First responders.; Graves County (Ky.); Humanitarian assistance; Insurance companies; Kentucky; Kentucky State Police; Natural disasters.; Needs assessment.; Outreach; Police stations; Red Cross and Red Crescent.; Refugees.; Tornado damage; United States. Federal Emergency Management Agency; United States. Federal Emergency Relief Administration

00:15:58 - Mental health outreach

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Partial Transcript: And one of the things that we've seen in a, in a few emails, um, is, is outreach for metal health and some support for these folks

Segment Synopsis: Tashjian talks about mental health impacts on those who were in the tornado, especially those who experienced the loss of their homes or loved ones. Tashjian says that this kind of loss makes people feel as if they've lost their sense of belonging in their own community. He also talks about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the impact it will have on people affected by the storm.

Keywords: Local news; PTSD; Rain; Sirens; Tornado sirens

Subjects: Children.; Church buildings; Communities.; Courthouses; Forecasting.; Homelessness.; Mental Health Outreach Network; Mental health.; Outreach.; Post-traumatic stress disorder.; Postal service.; Refugees.; Severe storms.; Tornado warning systems; Tornadoes; Tornadoes.; Weather

00:17:44 - Ongoing recovery efforts

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Partial Transcript: I mean we're now, you know into, into late February so its been a little over two months after this event

Segment Synopsis: Tashjian talks about the ongoing recovery efforts taking place in Mayfield and throughout western Kentucky. He explains that they are taking it one day at a time and are still trying to provide aid for farmers who have experienced property damage from the storms. Tashjian says that federal aid will also be needed in order to rebuild. Tashjian gives advice to other places that could be dealing with natural disaster relief.

Keywords: 4-H clubs; 4-H fund; Extension agents; Family resource centers; Grassroots; Networks; Recovery efforts

Subjects: Bottled water; Communicating; Communities.; Farmers.; Federal aid.; Federal government.; Fences.; Fund raising.; Gifts; Horses.; Humanitarian assistance; Infrastructure; Kentucky; Natural disasters.; Needs assessment.; Oklahoma; Poultry industry; Preparedness.

00:25:51 - Uplifting experiences

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Partial Transcript: I just wanted to maybe end this interview with a little question about, sort of the humanity that you've seen.

Segment Synopsis: Tashijan explains that people reaching out and showing that they care from all over the country is very uplifting for him. He gives a specific example of someone that donated satellites to Western Kentucky, which provided internet access for first responders. Tashijan ends the interview by saying that he knows that they will make it through this and he appreciates the support people have provided.

Keywords: Extension agents; Front line workers; Humanitarian assistance

Subjects: 4-H clubs; Communities.; First responders.; Internet access; Marshall County (Ky.); Mayfield (Ky.); Satellite dish antennas; Volunteers.