Children of Kentucky

Dear Kentucky,

Your strength moves me. Ever since the tornadoes hit your state, I have been watching you on the evening news. I marvel at your courage. You are beautiful.

I see ambitious big-city news journalists, trying unsuccessfully to understand your downhome accents during interviews. And I watch you tell your most devastating stories while wearing an easy smile, without flinching.

I watch state officials address the public and I hear their voices crack. I see Red Cross volunteers cry. I see children with battered faces, parents wearing borrowed clothes, and young mothers without their babies.

Your communities look like confetti piles. Your land is a mud hole.

And yet you look unshaken. How? How do you do that, Kentucky?

When your sons and daughters stare into the lens, how do they find the mettle to tell the world about loved ones gone missing, tornado-related deaths, or relatives crushed beneath falling debris?

How do these interviewees manage to also tell the camera that they are “Trusting in God,” or “Taking it one day at a time”?

You inspire me.

I’m inspired by the shirtless man wandering a demolished sidestreet, determinedly looking for his dog.

I am moved by the old fella pleading with camera crews to help find his missing wife.

I grieve the seven children who died on the same residential street.

I pray for you, Kentucky. I really do. I pray for your people, your first responders, your transplants, your prodigals, and the lineworkers visiting the Bluegrass State. I pray for your wounded heart, your ravaged lands, and for your splintered gathering places.

I see images of your young ones climbing over haystacks of rubble. I see men and women leading prayer in nuclear war zones. I weep with you. Then I offer a prayer alongside you.

And while I know that the last thing you need right now are the prayers of some average Joe Six-Pack like me, here’s the thing: There are millions of us average American Joes and Josephines praying for you, Kentucky.

Because you are us. And in a way, we are you.

You represent the throbbing heart of our rural soul, live and in color, and you make us proud. We are proud to be from towns the size of area rugs, and honored to be numbered among your distant kin.

We see your determination and we know that we are getting a closeup view of the unbreakable muscle fibers of the American spirit.

My people are just like your people. Although our states are a thousand miles apart, we are alike. I come from salt-of-the-earth individuals who wear Levi’s to funerals, who prefer pickups over Priuses, and whose family heirloom salad bowls have “Cool Whip” printed on the sides.

I understand your accent perfectly, Kentucky. I have a similar one my ownself. I recognize the interior decor of your homes. We drive the same vehicles. We grew up playing the same sports.

Sometimes I see your old men on television and I am struck by how much they look like the men I hail from. Their easy drawls, their friendly faces, their sunkissed skin, and the heavy equipment logos on their ballcaps.

I see your matriarchs and I might as well be looking at my granny, my aunts, my cousins, or my mother. All that’s missing are the cat-eye glasses and the beehives.

I see your children playing in the street, oblivious to the storm-beaten wasteland around them. They look like they could be my nieces, nephews, and cousins.

And perhaps this is what affects me the most, Kentucky. Perhaps what I’m saying here is that I am trying to see myself in you.

Because the truth is, there is a large part of me that wonders whether I will be strong when it’s my turn to suffer. All people will suffer, sooner or later. I know that. I’m no fool. But the question is, will I endure hard times with the dignity you have shown?

I doubt it.

I am not a strong man. I am like most 21st-century Americans. I have become spoiled and soft in the middle. I am entitled, self-centered, and self-important. I stand before a microwave sometimes and yell, “Hurry up!”

I subscribe to five internet movie streaming services and yet I cannot find anything to watch.

I overlook those in need. I don’t always notice the homeless. I care too much about my own comfort.

But when I see you, Kentucky… My God. I see the best part of humankind, shining like a floodlight in the darkness.

I see your young men delivering drinking water to elderly women living in structures made of naked two-by-fours.

I watch large men in bib overalls play gospel piano in roofless homes, singing hymns unto the sky itself.

Upon your soil are the most courageous souls to ever walk the planet. And I find myself wishing that all God’s children could be as brave as the children of Kentucky.


  1. Connie W - December 17, 2021 6:46 am


    • Karyn Kendrick - December 17, 2021 3:22 pm

      I have seen that spirit, too. After Hurricane Katrina the whole Gulf Coast showed the same. My favorite was a big plywood piece, hand lettered and in the midst of all the destruction. It read” ‘Twas Grace that led us safe this far and Grace will lead us home”. Our prayers are with Kentucky. We understand.

  2. Judy Warmath - December 17, 2021 7:03 am

    Thank you!

  3. Lisa K Riley - December 17, 2021 9:40 am

    Amen, amen. God bless the children of Kentucky.

  4. Virginia Russell - December 17, 2021 11:33 am

    I’m not quibbling with your admiration of post-storm Kentuckians. There is a name for the affect shown by survivors, though.

    I would point out to you also that this Prius owner cannot afford an F150. And has no need for one.

    • CherylW - December 17, 2021 5:37 pm

      No need to comment, Virginia. You missed the whole point.

    • Susan Kennedy - December 17, 2021 10:31 pm

      What’s your point Virginia?? Good grief…

  5. B Kern - December 17, 2021 11:41 am

    Beautifully said. I, like you, question if I would have the same dignity and strength witnessed in the people of Kentucky when facing the devastation they are facing. I’m praying for every person affected, all those helping with the cleanup. May God bless each one. 🙏🙏

  6. Joan+Moore - December 17, 2021 11:49 am

    Thank you. You have inspired many with this, either to not give in to the destruction of hope, or to turn Netflix off and find a way to help. Beautifully done. I salute you, brother.

  7. Samantha Hall - December 17, 2021 12:08 pm

    Thank you. You have described my state and my people perfectly.

    • Ruth Gunter Mitchell - December 17, 2021 3:43 pm


  8. Jan - December 17, 2021 12:11 pm

    Amen! God bless the people of Kentucky. God bless you, Sean, for being our eyes to see the pure, stark beauty of the people of Kentucky!

  9. Susan - December 17, 2021 12:25 pm

    Amen, Sean♥️ Continuing to pray for Kentucky 🙏🙏

  10. Joy Jacobs - December 17, 2021 12:30 pm

    “the best part of mankind”. ❤️

  11. Denise Walker - December 17, 2021 12:32 pm

    Inspiring words, Sean. Thank you for bringing it all to light.

  12. Helen Muir - December 17, 2021 12:42 pm


  13. Robert Nester - December 17, 2021 12:46 pm

    Being a ‘damn Yankee’ myself, having transplanted to the Bluegrass 17 years ago….I love the commonwealth and the people who live here.

    I have visited the entire country over, and it is one big neighborhood without recognizing it. But Kentucky really does have an amazing ‘air’ about it; laid -back, and full of rugged potential.

    It is a horrendous experience to have one’s life and home up-ended in such storms (I did 5 years ago), but they can be rebuilt through time and sweat. The immediate and unexpected loss of loved ones, however, leaves empty feelings beyond measure.

    I pray this article is a salve for soothing some of that hurt, pain, and loneliness felt by those in Western Kentucky, and that it serves as a beacon to draw others closer to the roots of what makes all of us, Americans, in this big national neighborhood during this Holiday Season.

  14. Charlotte Lee - December 17, 2021 12:57 pm

    Thank you, Sean for capturing the spirit of Kentucky. I hail from there and my heart is hurting for my kinfolk. For we are indeed all His children. Let’s do all that we can to help one another. Prayer and otherwise. God bless you for telling all of the important stories of everyday people.

  15. Gay - December 17, 2021 1:17 pm

    Thank you Sean from this ol’ Kentucky girl❤️

  16. Patricia Gibson - December 17, 2021 1:24 pm

    Amen and God bless them!

  17. Paul McCutchen - December 17, 2021 1:30 pm

    My prayers are for Kentucky.

  18. Toni Adcock - December 17, 2021 1:41 pm


  19. Linda Taylor - December 17, 2021 1:43 pm

    No matter what the situation. You nail it with so much empathy and gut wrenching emotions. I can feel your words as though I am watching it unfold. You are a great, inspiring writer and human. I look forward to each days article
    And open my gift with anticipation. Well done Sean!! You’re the man! 👍👏💖

  20. Craig Green - December 17, 2021 1:43 pm

    We will all suffer in our life time, that is true. What this writer said is so profound. Will we have the dignity and faith to endure.

  21. Kathy McLean-Davis - December 17, 2021 1:44 pm

    My ancestors are from Kentucky. With the Blue Grass still flowing through their veins as they came to settle in Texas, they and those that came with them in their covered wagons named their settlement Kentuckytown. It still exists as a marker on the road near where I currently live. I pray I got some of that courage, bravery, and heart. But mostly I pray we will all be moved by that same sense of courage to let go of some of our own insecurities and reach out to Kentucky with gifts of time, labor, supplies, spiritual and emotional support, and/or financial resources. They need our help as much as our prayers and admiration.

  22. Lorna Lanham - December 17, 2021 1:49 pm

    Kentucky Proud really is who we are! Thank you for your portrayal of that.

  23. Nick - December 17, 2021 1:54 pm

    Special prayers for Brian Crick, may he Rest In Peace! And Amanda Crick, who is still in ICU, that she will be healed so she can raise their three children!

  24. Niki Kirby - December 17, 2021 2:04 pm

    Sean thank you for writing about my home state of KY. I’m from Bowling Green and live in FL now but have been so heartbroken over everything my friends and family are going through.

  25. AL - December 17, 2021 2:05 pm

    Continue to tell it Sean. It’ll not be long and the TV cameras and news readers will have left. The story of Kentucky and the people affected by the tornados will continue for months and even years. Our prayers should include them for months and years to come. Thank you

  26. flkatmom - December 17, 2021 2:10 pm

    Sean, this one brought tears to my eyes. While I do not live in the beautiful mountains of Kentucky, it is my heritage, they are my people. I am very proud of that. Thank you for this article. Pray for the people of Kentucky, donate if you can, they are a PROUD People that prefer to do for themselves, but are in dire need of help.

  27. Carter E. Anthony - December 17, 2021 2:11 pm

    Blue Moon of Kentucky Keep on Shining, Bill Monroe

  28. Pat Rawls Barton - December 17, 2021 2:28 pm

    Thank you for speaking for all of us!

  29. Janie Shouse - December 17, 2021 2:29 pm


  30. Michael Marsili - December 17, 2021 2:42 pm

    Thank you Sean, poetically spoken. I am Deacon Michael Marsili of Resurrection Catholic Church in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. There are many things we all need now, and among those are words of comfort and encouragement. I believe you when you say you are one of us, and I believe you suffer with us. That is the definition of compassion, isn’t it? Our town is about 70% destroyed, and that includes our church. But at the same time, even though, sadly, we lost people in our community, all of our parishioners survived. Some lost everything, but they are still with us. We already have a place, a metal building which belongs to a longtime friend and neighbor of ours, in which we will celebrate Mass on Christmas Eve with our parish community and our bishop. There is always evil and suffering in an imperfect world, but God’s grace is always greater.

    • Crystal Jones - December 19, 2021 4:25 am

      Your story and comments have touched my heart. I live in Mayfield, Kentucky. I’m used to being the one to go and serve others here in my town and in other states with my church on mission trips. I go each year to Arizona and serve youth. I help fill up backpacks and send to Eastern Kentucky for Christmas through the the Kentucky Baptist Convention. I help fill up shoeboxes and send out through Samaritan’s Purse with Operation Christmas Child. And now Samaritan’s Purse is in my town serving me. Kentucky Baptist Convention disaster team is here serving. A man from Oklahoma cooked the best BBQ last night and gave me the biggest hug today. I’m so humbled at all the people from everywhere coming to help our town. I cry everyday. Its been 7 days. My family and our homes are ok. My well was busted but already fixed from men in another town. After days of no power, how did the linemen restore our power so quickly?? I can go anywhere in town for a warm meal some cooked for me. So many are serving our community with needs, showers, and doing our laundry.
      My church First Baptist stands on the court square where sadly so many buildings are just piles of rubble. My church sanctuary is the largest cross in Graves County and it is still standing. Also in our ministry building, the cross still stands in the window and was lit up for a time. It has been a light of hope for our community. Last Sunday, we came and prayed in our church sanctuary. We prayed for God to use us as a light to our community. We hear more and more stories each day of God’s goodness. My God is faithful! He will see us through this devastating time. Our hearts ache for those we have lost. People who have lost their homes are out serving others. Everyone is checking in on each other. We listen to each others stories. We take food to those who can not get out. I’m so overwhelmed by everyone coming in to help. Tomorrow I will go to church at the local high school. My pastor often asks us if we are happy to BE the house of the Lord. We are the church. The church is not the building. I hope to soon fill up backpacks to take and give out in my community just like we send to others. We were hit by the ice storm in 2009 but few knew. This is so much more devastating as I see my town from one side to the other in piles. Pray for our local businesses that are family owned. So many have been lost. I live on a hill that over looks Mayfield from one side to the other. It has been so dark for a week but each night I see more and more lights coming back on. I see hope. I see all who care. I see how strong we really are. I love my church. I love my small town. I love Kentucky. I love my Jesus who will see us through. # MayfieldStrong

  31. Kathy Smith - December 17, 2021 3:08 pm

    Beautifully written and so true!! God Bless all who have lost so much the last few days with the tornadoes that have struck the MidWest and all the people that have arrived to help them, those who have donated to the organizations that are on site. I hope they can feel all the prayers being said for them during this difficult time. Amen!

  32. Cathy M - December 17, 2021 3:12 pm

    Preach on, Sean. Best yet from you. Passing on to My entire family. I feel sorry for anyone who does not subscribe to you. They are missing so much. You rock my world with live and hope in this crazy , mixed up world. Merry Christmas❤️🙏🏻🎄

  33. Bobby Birmingham - December 17, 2021 3:14 pm


  34. AlaRedClayGirl - December 17, 2021 3:21 pm

    “There but for the grace of God go I.” Praying for Kentucky.

    • mim - December 17, 2021 4:50 pm


  35. Ruth Mitchell - December 17, 2021 3:41 pm

    Beautiful tribute to deserving people! My prayers continue for all those hit by the horrible tornadoes.

  36. Stacey Wallace - December 17, 2021 4:10 pm

    Thank you, Sean. These wonderful people are heroes.

  37. Rae Carso. - December 17, 2021 4:28 pm

    Oh my heavens, you have captured this moment perfectly. My momma’s people were from Kentucky and many cousins are still there, all safe as far as I know. We all grieve for those who are bearing up under terrible losses.

  38. Still Magnolia - December 17, 2021 4:34 pm

    Amen! Praying for Kentucky!

  39. Susie Flick - December 17, 2021 4:49 pm

    Amen! Prayers to all – everywhere to survive and be strong like the people of Kentucky.

  40. Frank Burner - December 17, 2021 5:24 pm

    Very well stated, Sir.

  41. Nancy Wright - December 17, 2021 5:55 pm

    So, so true!

  42. Sandy Burnett - December 17, 2021 5:55 pm

    Thank you for saying many of the things which we think but don’t say. Thank you for praying like many of us. May each person affected by these storms feel the love and prayers of all of us in this great nation and from others around the world. But may they feel the love of our Heavenly Father who would be with them during this time of healing and rebuilding, of grieving and remembering of adjusting and moving forward. Praying for all of you.

  43. Naomi - December 17, 2021 6:29 pm

    We lived in Edwardsville, Illinois, in the 1960s. That was where the Amazon distribution center got leveled by a tornado. Both my (late) husband and I went to college at Southern Illinois University. In fact, we were living there when they were building the Edwardsville campus. It was also where my son started kindergarten. We had a lot of tornados while we were living there. One time we had an earthquake. They had just finished building the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, which was the epicenter of the earthquake. There were people in the top of the arch, and no one was sure if it would withstand an earthquake, but it did. I was in a Green Stamp store in Illinois to cash in my books. I had both of my children, who were toddlers, with me. All of a sudden all of the glass shelves started retelling. It took me a few seconds to realize that it was an earthquake. I grabbed my children and ran outside into the parking lot to get away from all of the glass.

  44. Linda Moon - December 17, 2021 6:29 pm

    Kentuckians inspire me. Survivors inspire me. Wounded hearts break mine. But, My God, the many stories I’ve read from this average Joe help me see LIFE with its beauty and losses, especially now in Kentucky. You’ve been strong, Sean Dietrich, and will be again if and when you need to. And I mean it!

  45. Retha - December 17, 2021 6:39 pm

    Thank you Sean for your beautiful words.

  46. Suellen - December 17, 2021 7:47 pm

    Our Pastor just told us Wednesday night that our church body has an assessment team on the ground and our real work probably won’t start for 6 weeks. When the TV cameras turn away and all the helpers go back to their home states we will still be there.

  47. Maggie Priestaf - December 17, 2021 7:50 pm

    Thank you for telling them, Sean…
    American Josephine

  48. MAM - December 17, 2021 8:02 pm

    When we had a tragic fire in our small community in New Mexico, just like Kentuckians, everyone rallied around to help. It’s what good people do, with God’s help.

  49. Martha Allegri - December 17, 2021 8:07 pm

    What a beautiful tribute to these strong brave Americans. It is hard for me to understand, We who live in the line of devastating hurricaines get 48 hours of notice to collect our most cherished belonings, These brave people had minutes to protect themselves and lost everything except their belief that they stand with their God and are not alone.

  50. Maire McCormick - December 17, 2021 8:49 pm

    Sean, perfectly stated! I am a NYC transplant and have lived here since 1973. You get us. Couldn’t believe watching the young high school men out in tractors, delivering water bottles, cutting down trees, and making themselves available to anyone needing help on Sunday in their hometown of Mayfield. They were completely upbeat, calling out to people as they circled through the town. Thank you for pointing out what faith and resilience are all about! GOD BLESS WESTERN KENTUCKY!

  51. Karen Snyder - December 18, 2021 4:36 am


  52. Cynthia - December 18, 2021 1:00 pm

    An amazingly powerful tribute to the people of Kentucky. Thank you.

  53. amanda castleberry - December 22, 2021 10:35 pm

    God bless the people in Mayfield, Kentucky. They are good people and very strong. Sean, thank you for the wonderful words about Kentucky.

  54. Linda Perkins - December 29, 2021 12:15 am

    This is so beautifully written.
    Linda Perkins

  55. Helen De Prima - January 6, 2022 9:18 pm

    Thank you, Sean, from a fourth-generation Kentuckian. You get it.


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