For those of you who have not been called upon to try to maintain your cool during a disaster, “chatter” means radio “traffic”; and radio “traffic” means “conversations” or “radio communications”; and “radio conversations” means … well, you know…..

Between 1987 and 2004, I served as Pastor to the First Baptist Church of Wartburg (Morgan County), Tennessee. I always joked about pastoring a church that was “slightly off the (town) square”; which didn’t seem right somehow – being “off square.”

But there we were; and there I was, providing a four-hour Southern Gospel Music radio show everyday over our local 5,000 watt AM station; and enjoying my ministry with the church.

Wartburg is a county seat town; and First Baptist was a typical red brick, grey roofed, white columned, white pewed, brass chandeliered, Christ centered, community involved, colonial style Baptist church. We were catty-cornered from the funeral home and the court house, up the street from the post office, across the street from the bank, adjoining the radio station and the newspaper office and surrounded by various and sundry offices in houses and homes in houses.

Whitt used to tease me when I tried to learn to golf (and almost knocked out one of the gazillion dollar stained glass windows) – (who put that real golf ball in that pile of whiffle balls?). Jimmy was always out on the porch hollering for me to “come and set a spell.” Roy was always working in his fantastic garden.

Joe was doing whatever lawyers do all day long (didn’t quite get that one figured out). Sam was out taking his walks with “Bandit” the big ole community black lab dog (hurry back, Sam, “Bandit” has to take up his post guarding our church van in my drive way). Minni Ann was carrying in a pot luck lunch or a birthday cake to the courthouse (those people can find more reason to throw a party).

The “runway lights” are on down at the funeral home; so that means there is a service there tonight (“runway lights” were low voltage sidewalk illuminators). I can hear the intercom squawking over at the drive through window at the bank. You know just typical small town stuff that goes on in every town in every county in every state in “Murica.”

It was late Sunday afternoon; and we had a weather front going through; so Sandy (radio station manager) asked me to go up and put an alert on the computer to broadcast several times per hour. I finished the alert; and stepped out of the door – and BAM, the lights went off all over town.

The “faithful” were already gathering for our evening service; and the emergency lights were on in the church. I had noticed the weather radar before I left the station; and it seemed to show that the front was headed north of Morgan County.

It didn’t look like the lights were going to be restored anytime soon, so I asked that we have prayer and dismiss the service; which we did at 7:05; and I hung around, talked awhile, locked the doors and went next door to our home. About 7:30. the power came back on; and I went down to get a pizza for supper.

Before I got back home, it was hailing – big chunks of hail; and I said a prayer for the emergency workers that were obviously out in that unsafe weather working. Little did I know!

The “chatter” increased and I got the call. Mike (one of our emergency workers) called and jolted me with: “Brother Tom, it’s Mossy Grove and Joiner (two communities); and it’s bad”.

That call started my experience with the four “F3” tornadoes that ripped through our county that night killed seven people, and just disappeared – in less than a minute in each location. It had already killed four people in Cumberland County; and one more was later to die in Anderson County.

The “chatter” about Hurricane Dorion on the news this past couple of weeks reminded me of that awful experience; when I saw five counties come together, hold twelve funerals, and rebuild 125 homes that were either damaged or destroyed.

Our church was central, so they met there; and, in a moment of temporary insanity, someone made the motion that “Brother Tom lead the rebuild efforts” as chairman of the “Long Term Recovery Committee”; and so it began – my experience with the finest bunch of emergency workers and relief workers I have known.

They came into Morgan County from every religious denomination and secular organization I had ever heard of (and some I hadn’t). Funny thing, a “Methodist hammer and nail” drives just as straight and true as a “Baptist one”; and Lutheran relief efforts (lunches, furniture, or cash) work just as well as the Catholic or Mennonite efforts.

The hot coffee tastes just as good from a Salvation Army truck as from the Red Cross ERV; and people from “Second Harvest” and “Mission of Hope” work very well with ham radio operators and Adventist warehousing specialists.

The “chatter” these past few weeks reminded me of that – and I didn’t really want – or need — to be reminded; but I wouldn’t take anything for that experience as I look backwards on it.

Five minutes are up; stay safe!!!!!

Tom Mooty writes these columns for the Thursday and Weekend Editions of the “Newport Plain Talk”; and he appreciates your comments. See Mooty on the streets of his hometown, Newport; e-mail him at; or write to him at P.O. Box 851, 37822. Mooty serves as “the Medicare Minister (Very Senior Pastor)” of the West End Baptist Church of Newport.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.