Thankful People: Living through two tragedies

Kian Sutter naps with his new grandson Braxton Overy over the summer.
Courtesy of Kian Sutter

KFVS meteorologist Brian Alworth is on TV. Storms are coming.

Kian Sutter's wife, Sara, who works overnight hours, asks if she should go now toward Sikeston, Missouri, where she works, to beat the storm.

Yes, Kian says. Go now.

Tornado is spotted just west of Glen Allen.

Lights flicker, then disappear. Darkness envelopes the place. Then the sounds. Kian sends a text to Sara.

Kian Sutter is pictured with his grandson, Braxton Overy, and his father, Bill Sutter.
Courtesy of Kian Sutter


Sutter grabs his dog, Molly. Squeezes her in his arms. They huddle in the bathtub. He tells Molly he loves her and that he is sorry. The air whooshes through the bathroom door and out the window. Sutter feels pieces of debris like sand pelt his skin. He hears pops and snaps. He thinks this might be his last night.

The wind stops.

The noise subsides.


He assesses the damage. The front porch has been pushed into the living room. The outside is a mess. Roof damage. Broken windows. But the house is standing.

The tornado took five nearby lives that night, but Sutter and Molly were spared. Then began the arduous aftermath.

Kian and Sara, pushed through. Day by day, they made progress. They moved into the apartment space above the garage, while they cleaned up the main living areas. It was a struggle to live in a damaged and scattered house. Eventually, they moved things back to the main part of the house.

They worked through the insurance claims and hired a contractor to install a new black roof and gutters. The community, likewise, was collectively finding its legs. The town came together. Tragedies tend to do that.

A few days after the roof was rebuilt, Kian and Sara are in Colorado, enjoying some time away. Ever an outdoorsman, Kian loves going to Colorado. He and Sara enjoy visiting the mountains. They have friends there.

Sara's phone buzzes. It's a neighbor. It's the middle of an August night. A Sunday. Sara answers.

Water is raging.

Five feet of water surrounds the Sutters' house.

The neighbors show a video. A truck bobs through the darkness.

The garage door is pushed open. Water pours into the garage, where tens of thousands of dollars of tools are stored. Water pushes inside. It rises quickly.

Glen Allen is under nature's attack again. Eight inches or more of rain has fallen in the overnight hours. A nearby creek berm has given way. There is no defense against this flash flood. Some neighbors crawl to safety onto kitchen counters until rescuers arrive.

As the messages come, Kian: You have got to be kidding me.

The town is evacuated.

Morning comes. It's a soul-crushing second act.

The tornado was nature's bomb. It ripped the town from one end to the next, its violence plucking trees and ripping roofs. The flood, though, was radiation. Sludge seeped into every crevice. The flood finished what the tornado started. Clothes were ruined. Furniture. Carpet. Drywall. Papers. All of it mudsoaked. None of it salvageable. Houses were stripped to studs.

The response teams were fewer, but the volunteers were appreciated beyond measure.

Residents were offered buyouts, thanks to pressure from U.S. Congressman Jason Smith. It was needed, due to the uncertainty of the berm that gave way. Almost everyone took the buyout.

Most of the houses are shells. Some homeowners keep their doors open with fans running inside. Kian's house was broken into recently. He had to board up doors, and put in new locks and cameras.

The destruction has given way to new opportunities.

Kian tends to be more sentimental than before. In the middle of this nightmare of a year, his first grandchild, a boy, was born in July, before the flood hit on Aug. 14. He calls his grandson, Braxton Overy, his best friend. Kian calls his daughter almost daily to see how the boy is doing and to spend time with him.

The Sutters are living in a small house in Cape Girardeau. Kian acknowledges he is more fortunate than many of his neighbors. First, he and Molly survived the tornado. Five others were not so fortunate. He's thankful to be alive. Plus, he said, he is not financially strapped like many who lived in the gravel-road neighborhood off Highway 34. An investor and former salesperson with an oil company, Kian absorbed the financial hits better than most.

Kian is currently working at Cape Bicycle, helping manage the store owned by his friend.

He and his wife have been thinking about what's next. And there are opportunities they're considering that they might not have considered before the tornado and flood. They have some friends in Colorado who are looking for someone to manage their hostel property. Trips to Colorado have a way of soothing the soul. The next chapter awaits.

Thanksgiving for him and his family will be different this year. They usually host, but this year the family will be gathering at Golden Coral for a buffet dinner over the weekend. It won't be the same. But it will be remembered.