Morning Pointe Of Chattanooga Associate Shares Her Tornado Survival Story

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

As a lead certified nursing assistant at Morning Pointe of Chattanooga at Shallowford, Tiffany Cross is trained and ready to deal with whatever comes her way in the middle of the night at her assisted living community. But nothing prepared her for Easter night—the night an F3 tornado hit her building.

The devastating storm that destroyed much of Ooltewah severely damaged Morning Pointe of
Chattanooga Assisted Living on Shallowford Road and its sister building down the street, The
Lantern at Morning Pointe Alzheimer’s Center of Excellence, Chattanooga. The memory care
community took a direct hit. This traumatic event changed everything for Ms. Cross, and the global
COVID-19 pandemic made it all that much harder to deal with.

“You don’t understand how close you are until something like this happens,” said Ms. Cross.
“You think you know, until something brings you even closer together. Honestly, the tornado has
pulled us all closer—staff, family, residents, everybody. You learn how good you can be as a
unit through something like this.”

It’s inspirational, and it’s helping move the whole Morning Pointe of Chattanooga family
forward. Together, Ms. Cross, her co-workers, her residents, and their families are all counting
down the days until they get back to their home. Now that November is here, the big day is very
close. 

For Ms. Cross, it will be her first time back into the assisted living community since that
frightening night. “I was watching the Weather Channel, and the weather radio started to go off:
‘Warning! Tornado warning!’” Ms. Cross recounts. “I went back to the television, and the whole
thing was red. I called out to my co-workers, ‘We are going to get hit by a tornado.’ ‘No, don’t
scare us,’ they said. ‘I am not trying to scare you; I am trying to prepare you. That’s my job!’ I
said.”

The care team walked through the Florida Room, a beautiful sitting area with windows and a
skylight above, to start bringing residents to the center hallway for safety when they suddenly
felt the impact of the tornado. “We moved towards the skylight, and when we walked
underneath, it shattered. The tornado was hitting us,” said Ms. Cross.

“We came by the nursing desk and got behind the wall. That wall was the only thing that was
shielding us. We rode it out. I called our executive director, Cody Harvey. Glass was flying and
sticking into the wall. We had one resident in the 300 hallway come out. We had to tell him to go
back. It felt like it lasted forever.” said Ms. Cross.

“As soon as it was over, we started our rounds, making sure everyone was okay. Many of the
residents were asleep in their beds, most of their windows were blown out on them. Their beds
were now near their bathrooms, pushed by the wind. We split up the hallways, three of us, and
started pulling them out. The front doors were by our fireplace. A water pipe from outside was in
our activity room. It was terrifying.”

Right away, Morning Pointe Senior Living owners Greg Vital and Franklin Farrow, along with
other associates, were on site leading the emergency evacuation.130 residents were displaced
from the two buildings. All had survived.

“I took hallway 200. It got hit really bad and was flooding. Residents first worried about their
families, their cars. They had a lifetime of memories in their rooms, and we were trying to
comfort them,” said Ms. Cross. “We took them around to the best part of the building so they
wouldn’t have to see all the bad. Five minutes ago, we had a beautiful, perfect building. The
wind tore us apart.”

Like many Morning Pointe Senior Living associates, Ms. Cross worked around the clock, helping
with the evacuation and then making sure every single resident was settled into their temporary
homes at two nearby hotels. “They were all nervous wrecks. They didn’t know why they were
there, and you couldn’t really explain to them that a tornado tore down their building.”

After two weeks, all the residents were relocated to area Morning Pointe assisted living
communities and other nearby facilities. COVID-19 made the separation isolating for many.
Once again, associates stepped up, filling in for family. “Since they can’t see their families, we
are the only ones they have,” said Ms. Cross. “Some associates came in on their days off to sit with the residents who don’t have family.”

It’s been a challenge. Ms. Cross, like many displaced associates, worked at Morning Pointe of East
Hamilton Assisted Living and Alzheimer’s Memory Care during the months of renovation. She
worries about the residents she doesn’t get to see, who are temporarily at other facilities. “When
we don’t see our regular residents all of the time, we worry about them, because we have taken 
care of them for so long,” said Ms. Cross. “You worry if they got the right breakfast, because they
only eat a certain breakfast. You worry if they are in bed at 8 p.m. because it’s their bedtime. We
are so connected at Shallowford, and we are such a family. We all share birthdays together, all of
that. Residents will give you cards. We are so in touch with each other, the staff and the residents
included. They don’t know any different. Their families know us, we know their families. It’s all
the little things we do for each other.”

Those little things have fueled big hope. Now, a big move day is right around the corner, when
most will move back to their home, Morning Pointe of Chattanooga. “Right now, I am excited
about getting back,” said Ms. Cross with a smile. “I am so excited. I can’t wait to go back. I am just
like the residents and counting down the days.” 


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