MAYFIELD, Ky. -- It started as a typical Friday night for Kyanna Parsons-Perez heading into work, but what unfolded leading into her 40th birthday would be nothing worth celebrating.
She remembers vividly arriving at the candle factory in Mayfield, Kentucky, on Dec. 10. The employee lot wasn’t congested as it usually was because many employees had not arrived yet. She had the perfect front-row parking spot.
"And I was like, ‘Oh, it’s going to be all right tonight! You know?" Parsons-Perez recalled.
The factory was one of the largest employers in Mayfield, and more than 100 people were working that night to help meet the holiday demands. The factory was operating around the clock.
Many employees were unaware of the severe weather moving into the area. Parsons-Perez said she immediately discovered the storms after clocking in when she and other employees were ushered into the storm area.
"We were back there for a little while, and then we went back on the floor," Parsons-Perez said. "And then a couple of hours later, somewhere after 9 p.m., they sent us back again."
Then the thunder started to boom as emotions and anxiety rose in the shelter.
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"I’d never been in the storm before. We are too old for this, you know," Parsons-Perez said. "I didn’t realize the severity of it. I didn’t even think of what was going to happen to us."
The lights started flickering, and then it went dark.
"I saw all the coworkers that were kind of on the outside of the safety area. They started coming in, and I start feeling this gust of wind," Parsons-Perez said.
Then her ears started popping.
"And then I remember, like a little sway, like the building just swaying. And then boom, it just fell," Parsons-Perez said.
Everything fell, she remembers. But now, she was pinned under a drinking fountain and an air-conditioner unit.
"And I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness! Because I’m thinking, how big can an air conditioning unit be for a factory of that size?" Parsons-Perez said. "And then I was so afraid because if people move stuff the wrong way, then it can cause it to cave in."
At that moment, she truly felt that she wasn’t going to see another birthday.
After calls to 911 for help, Parsons-Perez began broadcasting live on Facebook in an effort for someone to come to her aid.
"I don’t know who’s watching," she cries in the video. "Please. Send us some help … the wall is stuck on me. Nobody can get to us. We can’t move. Just get somebody to come help us."
But when help arrived, fear set in – again.
"And then the moment when I truly, truly felt that I wasn’t going to get out of there was when the rescue people had come," Parsons-Perez said.
All she wanted was the debris to be moved so she could move her legs that were trapped in an awkward and uncomfortable position.
"If I can get my leg, I can stay under here for hours. I’ll be OK. I just need my legs," Parsons-Perez said. And so he said, ‘Ma’am, there’s about five feet of debris on top of you."
Nearly 80 soldiers and airmen completed search and extraction and fatality search and retrieval at the factory site.
What some might call a miracle, Parsons-Perez managed to walk away from the collapse, bruised, emotionally shaken but most importantly -- alive on her 41st birthday.
However, others were not so lucky. Eight factory workers were killed that night. Eight others are still unaccounted.
The official death toll in Kentucky remains at 74 confirmed fatalities. Twelve of those killed were children. Eight of the dead remain unidentified. Those killed range ranges from 2 months old to 98 years old.
Governor Andy Beshear said there currently are 122 Kentuckians unaccounted for, as local, state and federal crews continue rescue and recovery efforts.
"We’re heartbroken about this, and our immediate efforts are to assist those affected by this terrible disaster. Our company is family-owned and our employees, some who have worked with us for many years, are cherished. We’re immediately establishing an emergency fund to assist our employees and their families," Mayfield Consumer Products CEO Troy Propes said.
"We’re grateful to the first responders who heroically assisted our employees following the storm. And, we’re thankful for those who are generously offering to assist us. Your prayers are needed and appreciated."
A website has been established to help the Mayfield Consumer Products tornado victims. Click here to donate.