By Robbie Ward
TUPELO – As debris-removal trucks drove away last week, a former math teacher from south Mississippi arrived – a secret weapon to long-term tornado recovery.
Clay Brown, a teacher turned counselor, has committed a year to coordinating recovery. A survivor of Hurricane Camille in 1969 and recovery leader 36 years later, she felt drawn to Northeast Mississippi.
Brown believes the recovery committee will help people without sources of assistance as they regroup, but the tornado’s shadow will remain much longer.
“A year will make a big difference,” she said. “The scars will last a lot longer.”
Residents of areas hit hardest are discussing the “new normal,” when they try to resume routines with much of their surroundings changed. Those not impacted, however, easily forget about recovery.
Tupelo, Lee and Itawamba counties’ long-term recovery committee intends to provide resources for those still in need and keep reminding the larger community to continue helping.
“It just kind of slips away from you,” said Jack Reed Jr., chairman of the long-term committee. “People tend to forget there are others who continue to struggle to get back.”
The committee is a loose network of individuals and more than a dozen nonprofit, faith-based, government and community organizations. It has eight subcommittees: construction, finance, case management, unmet needs, community assessment, crisis counseling and spiritual care, volunteer coordination and communications.
Paid caseworkers funded through federal resources will help individuals navigate finding the right place to meet specific needs. Brown’s mission involves coordination of caseworkers and reminding people of opportunities waiting.
Brown’s message to the community includes looking beyond the destructive forces to uncover opportunities.
“There’s going to be a lot of improvements that people didn’t see before the tornado,” she said.