MAYFIELD, Ky. (WKYT) – Communities across the Commonwealth will begin putting up their Christmas trees and decorating for the holiday season this weekend.

In western Kentucky, communities like Dawson Springs and Mayfield are also preparing for a somber anniversary. On December 10th and 11th, 2021, a deadly storm system ripped through our state, destroying homes and lives.

For the people of Mayfield, this storm has struck in the dark, and over the past 11 months, the small western Kentucky town has taken baby steps to move forward.

Demolition of damaged buildings and homes has slowed, but the memories of what happened still linger in the hearts of people in the community, including Mayor Kathy O’Nan.

O’Nan says the anniversary is a date she and the rest of Mayfield keep sacred.

“We are very cautious about our plans for the one-year anniversary. We are very protective of this date,” Mayor O’Nan said. “We had several organizations and companies that wanted to come in on that date and do wonderful things for us, but we’re guarding it.”

24 people were killed in Mayfield. Eight of those killed were working at the candle factory when the tornado destroyed the building.

Mayor O’Nan says the holiday season can be the hardest for families who have lost a loved one. In 2021, Christmas came just 15 days after the deadly tornado swept through the small town.

“In such devastation, Christmas went on. But nobody here had a normal Christmas last year,” O’Nan said. “I hope that after the commemorations on the 10th and then as we approach Christmas we’ll just be with our families and our friends and have as normal a Christmas as possible.”

This holiday season, Mayor O’Nan is also thinking about eastern Kentucky as communities prepare to celebrate their first Christmas after the deadly floods. Her advice – don’t forget, but keep going.

“Stay the course, just stay the course. Even if they’re down and struggling, reach out,” O’Nan said. “There’s someone next to them who’s having a good day when they’re having a bad day.”

Looking back over the past 11 months, Mayor O’Nan says she is grateful for her community and grateful for Kentucky.

“I knew before December 10, but I am so grateful that the Commonwealth, the United States and some parts of the world know how wonderful, resilient and strong the people of Mayfield and Graves County are,” O’ Said said Nan.

On December 10th, members of the Mayfield Community gather at the site of the former candle factory. You will walk two miles to the empty lot where the courthouse once stood. A celebration of hope service will then be held later in the afternoon to remember those who were lost a year ago.