Last Wednesday, several area residents found themselves back in a similar place to where they stood approximately 12 years ago.

The feeling of compassion was heavy as 14 individuals traveled to Cookeville to assist with cleanup following the tornado that caused considerable damage and deaths during the early-morning hours of March 3.

“When the tornado came through Lafayette in 2008, people came from everywhere,” Lafayette’s Johnny Shockley said. “It got my parents’ house. The people coming in to help to do anything is amazing to me.

“Since then, I kind of went and helped in areas where I could. We were there and did all that we could.”

Shockley was part of a 10-member crew from Lafayette’s Modern Structures who traveled to Cookeville and assisted area residents last Wednesday.

“Anybody who lived through 2008 knows how valuable it was for people to show up,” Modern Structures owner Marcus Smith said. “I was watching it on TV and saw the devastation. I sent a mass text to every guy (employee on Tuesday night). I said, ‘Here’s my plan … I’m going to pay you guys to go help in Cookeville.’ It was voluntary of course. They said yes.”

In addition to the 10 Modern Structures employees – Shockley, Troy Griggs, James Coulter, Braylen Johnson, Austin Brawner, Malaki Loggins, Andrew Butcher, Jackie Smith, Robbie McCoy and Jacob Anderson – Kyle Garmon, Brandon Nix and Roger Russell also accompanied the group.

“In 2008, our home was hit, and we lost everything but what was on our back,” Griggs said. “This was an opportunity to give back for what was given to me.”

The group cut trees, helping get belongings out of house and assisted in the piling up of debris near the roadway so that it could be hauled off.

“In one house we helped, that old man was in his 70s,” Shockley said. “His roof was completely gone and half the walls in it were gone. He wanted us to tear some of the walls down and build him a roof over his basement so his basement wouldn’t get wet. It didn’t make sense, but we did exactly what the gentleman wanted.”

Griggs added, “It was so many people there. I’m going to say there was 1,000-plus volunteers in the neighborhood we were in. I was glad to see all the volunteers there yesterday. That’s what it’s all about.”

The damage was striking.

“When you actually go see it for yourself, it’s total devastation,” Griggs said. “You can relate to it. It’s very overwhelming.”

The reaction of the residents were mixed.

“They were still in disbelief over what went on,” Griggs said. “Some of them I talked to said they had no warning. It’s hard to put into words. They would laugh a while, and then, they would cry a while.”

Shockley added, “They’re in shock. They’re happy to be alive. When we were at, there were a lot of people who died. While we were there, they found the body of a 13-year-old boy. One person liked to have not made it out of the basement. It’s just unbelievable to sit and talk to them. You don’t know whether to hug them or what. You have no idea what to say. You can’t imagine what they are going through.”

They ran into two other Macon County residents – Casey and Toni Stevens – while they were there, and those two joined the Modern Structures crew.

“It was totally a team effort,” Shockley said. “I’m grateful for every one of them.

“I’ll do whatever I can to help anybody I can. I don’t want any recognition. Any time you can give back to your community, that’s what you’re supposed to do.”

Griggs added, “It was a blessing to me to get to go. When it happens, you don’t realize what you need to do. They said, ‘We don’t care what you do … just help.’”