CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. – A year-old baby who survived a tornado that ripped apart his house and killed his mother has become a bright spot in grievous memories of the tragedy a month ago.
"He loves music and he is friendly like she was," said his grandmother, Kay Stowell. "And she had the prettiest smile. He has got that. He likes people."
After hospital treatment for a collapsed lung, gashes and scrapes, Kyson Stowell is living with Stowell and her husband, Doug Stowell, in Sumner County northeast of Nashville.
Now nicknamed "Tumbleweed," the baby smiles a lot and seems to most enjoy playing with musical toys, also reminders of his mother.
Kyson celebrated his first birthday days after the funeral of his 23-year-old mother, Kerri Stowell. Violent storms that pounded the state Feb. 5 left 32 people dead, injured about 200 people and destroyed hundreds of homes.
Emergency responders spotted Kyson motionless and face down in a field strewn with his splintered house the morning after the storm. The Rev. Doyle Farris of Hartsville Pike Church of Christ predicted the young survivor would always be an "inspiration or a bright spot" for the community and a reminder "of the providence of God."
The "Tumbleweed" nickname was a lighthearted suggestion from a family friend because the baby survived being tossed around by the wind.
"There's been a lot of bad stuff around here, and he's kind of been a little bit of hope for everybody," Doug Stowell said.
Kay Stowell said Kyson's survival story has attracted global attention, bringing get well cards and contributions to a trust fund set up for his college education. She said a baby food company sent a package that included a spoon with "Tumbleweed" engraved on it. Kyson also has received numerous donations of clothes and toys.
"I've got cards from everywhere. I just can't thank everybody. I would like to do that," the grandmother said in a recent interview.
The family declined to say how much money has been contributed.