Thursday, May 12, 2011
I received my April 30 edition of The Marion County, Ala., Journal Record in the mail over the weekend.
It was filled with photos of the destruction left by the April 27 tornado, one with winds in excess of 200 miles per hour.
There was a photo of the heavily-damaged Hackleburg, Ala., High School.
“In small towns like ours,” said superintendent of education Ryan Hollingsworth, “the schools are the heart and soul of who we are. And now, the heart has been ripped out of Hackleburg.”
There were pictures of mangled cars in trees and flattened houses and businesses. There were photos of residents salvaging what they could from their demolished homes.
Since last week’s column on the destruction and loss of lives in the county where I was raised, I’ve been asked many times for updates.
The front page headline of that same newspaper said the tornado left 35 dead in Marion County, most of those in Hackleburg.
My aunt and uncle, who lost their home and the bulk of their belongings, spent a few nights with my mom last week. They have since moved into a mobile home near Hackleburg. They plan to rebuild after what’s left of their house is bulldozed away.
“I can’t imagine,” one remarked.
“It makes me realize what’s really important,” I replied. “And it’s not our earthly possessions.”
Times of tragedy also bring us closer together.
At Smithville, in northeast Mississippi, the Seminoles were in the baseball playoffs but had no equipment, no uniforms, nothing. “Rival” schools called – offering anything and everything they needed. The same happened in Hackleburg.
Rivals, yes, but most importantly, neighbors and friends – helping each other in times of need.
Smithville elementary students went to Hatley to finish the school year. Smithville high school students moved to the Monroe County Advanced Learning Center.
A sign in front of the Advanced Learning Center, which serves students from all county schools, read, “Welcome Smithville – We’re all Seminoles now.”
In a tornado-ravaged Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama received much-needed assistance from other Southeastern Conference schools.
One said, “We’re rivals but we’re a family.”
Monday, I received this e-mail from the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency. Pass Christian, a coastal town pummeled by Hurricane Katrina, is donating a doublewide trailer to used as a temporary office for Smithville officials. The town’s government is currently operating out of pickup trucks, and its fire and police chiefs are working out of their vehicles.
“We know what everyone did for us more than five years ago, and we wanted to give them what we had,” said Chipper McDermott, mayor of Pass Christian.
The unit was formerly used as a senior center after Hurricane Katrina.
Such stories go on and on.
Marshall Countians, too, have pitched in to help those communities hit by the late April tornadoes. Trucks of supplies have been hauled to Smithville and other areas.
“It could have been us,” one Holly Springs resident told me.
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