Memorial wall setup in Mayfield

A memorial for those killed in the tornado is seen outside of the destroyed Graves County...
A memorial for those killed in the tornado is seen outside of the destroyed Graves County Courthouse in Mayfield, Ky. on Wednesday, December 15.(Mike Mohundro/KFVS)
Updated: Dec. 15, 2021 at 7:20 PM CST
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MAYFIELD, Ky. (WSMV) - A Miami man traveled more than 1,000 miles to create a special memorial for the victims of the tornadoes.

During what felt like a helpless moment, Trina Cruse and her daughter were looking for ways to help.

“It’s so broad, so big, you don’t know where to try to start,” she said.  “We just stopped and asked what they were doing and asked if we could help.”

Buckets of flowers seemingly appeared in downtown Mayfield, Wednesday. Before long, a passerby was pitching in to build a wall of flowers in front of the historic courthouse, dotted with photos of tornado victims, growing the “Wall of Hope.”

“There’s just something about flowers,” Leo Soto said.

He traveled all the way to Mayfield from Miami, Florida.

“They were struck by a sudden tragedy, where there was a lot of loss of life,” he explained.  “I wanted to head there, I wanted to be able to help them.”

The Wall of Hope was born of his own community’s tragedy, started by Soto after the Surfside condo collapse.

“I know what it’s like to lose somebody that shouldn’t have been lost,” he said.

Soto drove from Nashville to Mayfield Wednesday, collecting flowers donations along the way.

“I know that there’s a lot of families here that need the help, that need a place to come together to begin to accept what happened here and, Soto said.  “Hopefully, that’s what this place becomes.”

A simple gesture with profound impact.

“A flower is a symbol of life exemplified,” Soto said a florist once told him. “So, people seeing their loved ones, pictures of their loved ones surrounded by flowers is seeing their loved ones surrounded by life.”

“For him to just think of us, little ole Mayfield, you know,” Cruse said, “makes you feel good.”

“Hopefully, they don’t just move on,” Soto said. “That they understand that this community is forever impacted. It’s forever changed, and there has to be a certain amount of respect paid to the victims here.”

Soto said the idea is for the memorial to keep growing. Unfortunately, the faces added to the memorial were only a fraction of those who lost their lives to the tornadoes. He invited others who lost loved ones to add their photos in front of the historic courthouse.

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