Vanderburgh Co. couple goes national with weather radio crusade

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Tom Walker/Eyewitness News

Washington - Earlier this spring Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a new law named for a young victim of one of the worst tornado disasters in US history. It happened outside Evansville, Indiana. Now the mother who led the charge wants the law to go national.

Kathryn Martin and her husband have brought to Washington the mission they have carried since the day both of them would like to forget, but can't. In November 2005, their home was blown apart by the tornado that swept through their southern Indiana mobile home park, and their two-year-old son CJ was killed in the storm. He is now the haunting face of their crusade.

"I want people to be prepared. I want them to be aware," Martin said.

Having succeeded in winning "CJ's Law" in Indiana requiring weather radios capable of sounding alarms in all new mobile homes, Martin says the whole nation should be protected too. They've been working the halls of Congress, drumming up support for a law that she is convinced could have saved her son's life.

"This just makes sense. How many more people have to die before somebody stands up and does something?" she wondered.

It wasn't hard enlisting the backing of their local sheriff at the time of the disaster, now Congressman Brad Ellsworth, who saw the tragedy firsthand.

"You live that for a couple weeks, you don't mind saying if this gives a family a chance, CJ a chance to survive I think it's well worth it," said Ellsworth (D).

After the tornado that hit indiana, thousands of programmable weather radios have been installed in mobile homes already.

Her campaign this week won Kathryn Martin a prestigious national award for public service, but it is not over. She says it won't be until she has taken it one more step.

"I never want to think that if I would've just sat at home and done nothing, I would see myself in five years crying on TV in someone else's body, saying why didn't somebody do something about this five years ago," she said.

Advocates say the federal "CJ's Law" would cost manufacturers only a few dollars to include the weather radios in new mobile homes. The industry is said to be studying the proposal.

CJ Martin was one of 25 people who were killed in the 2005 tornado.

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