But the real honor came thanks to the special guests who joined us on stage: Eric and Amy Gilbert lost everything when the tornado hit Joplin, and their two daughters — Tiffany, 18, and Lexi (“Lou”), 8 — went to stay with relatives as the cleanup began. The family reunited for the first time in weeks right before joining Sugarland at the CMT Awards in Nashville, where Tiffany and Lou served as the “LOVE” flagbearers for the night. (You can read their storyhere and here.)
Sugarland sat down with the Gilberts — a.k.a. the “Core Four” — right after the awards ceremony, where they were recovering from an emotional night, filled with a lot of hugs, a lot of tears, and a lot of Joplin pride.
How did it feel to finally come together as a family after so much time?
Amy: Besides the last two days, we’ve spent three hours with the kids in the last 15 days. And we’re a very, very closeknit family.
Eric: Tell her our nickname.
A: The Core Four. That’s what we call ourselves.
E: We’re the four that holds the whole world together. We truly believe that.
Did you reunite at the airport?
E: Actually, we met at Denny’s. I thought Lou was going to jump out of the car while it was moving.
A: We were going down the highway, and I was in the front and she was in the back, and she had her hands on her eyes, and I said, “What’s wrong?” And she said, “Mommy, I missed you.”
Lou: And that Sugarland song was playing. “Stand Up.”
How did it feel to see your folks?
Tiffany: It was fantastic. Honestly, it’s been such an emotional time, but being able to see them was just really cool.
E: I didn’t think you liked me that much.
T: I love you, Dad.
Were you nervous to carry the flag on television?
T: Uh, yeah. Just a little bit.
Were you nervous, Lou?
L: [shakes head]
E: Lou’s pretty even-keeled.
A: She’s the outgoing one.
L: I’m the actor, technically. I was not nervous.
What did it look like from the stage with all those “LOVE” flags flying in the audience?
L: Spray paint, and snow.
What’s it going to be like to go home?
E: That is not our home anymore. The little old lady who lives across the street, her name is Annie. She knew Amy when Amy was in the belly, and she lived across the street from Amy’s grandparents forever. And when her house got hit, after I got my kids safe, I went and got her. I knew she couldn’t get out. So we brought her over, and her family came and got her. But Saturday after the storm, she came pulling up and I saw her, and gave her a hug. I love this woman. And Amy came down and gave her some hugs, and she asked us what we were going to do. And we told her we had already purchased a house, somewhere else. It’s close, but it’s down the road. And she goes, “That’s what I wanted to know. If you’re not going to be across the street from me, I’m not rebuilding.”
What’s the message that you have taken away from this experience that you want to spread to the world?
A: It just starts with one person. One person. If we all get together, we can do something. It’s important to give back to your communities. Our community is broken right now, so we’re going to rebuild. And we’re going to be better.
E: I call it bent. We’re not broken.
A: We’re bent.
E: It’s going to be a long process, but I truly feel that Joplin’s going to be a better place, just because of the brotherhood.
A: It’s a good place.
E: And when you hear the sirens? Take cover. And when you take cover, put shoes on.
T: Not flip-flops.
If you’d like to help out the victims of the Tuscaloosa and Joplin storms, as well as Americans from across the country affected by the recent weather, you can pick up your copy of “Stand Up for Tornado Relief,” a collaboration with Little Big Town, by visiting iTunes here. Proceeds benefit the American Red Cross.
You may also contribute by visitingwww.redcross.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS or texting REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation to support the American Red Cross Disaster Relief efforts.