M. SCOTT MORRIS: On the hunt for witnesses to '36 tornado

By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

Hey, folks, have you ever taken a ride on a tornado to a Technicolor world filled with talking lions and scarecrows?
You know what Judy Garland and I mean: “Somewhere over the rainbow/Way up high/There’s a land that I heard of/Once in a lullaby.”
Garland shot to stardom as Dorothy Gale when “The Wizard of Oz” came out in 1939. The movie provided a big-screen, fantasy version of what a tornado could do. A short three years earlier, Tupelo residents dealt with the real thing, when a massive twister ripped through town beginning at about 8:30 p.m. on April 5, 1936.
It’s considered the fourth deadliest tornado in United States history. More than 220 people were killed, 338 were injured, and 48 city blocks and hundreds of buildings were destroyed or badly damaged.
We’re coming up on the 75th anniversary of Tupelo’s tornado, and I’m part of a team of writers who will be looking back at that great and terrible event.
I pitched a story to the higher ups at the Mighty Daily Journal, and they’ve given the go-ahead.
Here’s the basic idea: It must’ve been amazing the way families, neighbors, churches and other groups pulled together to rebuild in the aftermath of all that destruction.
Leadership is an important thing, and it certainly played its part in those hard days, weeks and months after April 5.
But I’m willing to bet plenty of regular folks took action on their own simply because the work had to be done.
If you survived that awful F5 tornado, I’d like to hear from you. Here are some of the questions:
– Where did you stay during the rebuilding?
– How did families divide the work?
– Did people work on their own houses by themselves, or did neighbors team up to help each other?
– Do you have any photos to share from those days?
The credits roll in “The Wizard of Oz” before the real work begins. That’s a Hollywood ending for you.
I’m looking for witnesses to important Tupelo history, and would appreciate your help. My contact information is at the bottom of this column.
Bonus quotes
– “I’ve always taken ‘The Wizard of Oz’ very seriously, you know. I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I’ve spent my entire life trying to get over it.” – Judy Garland.
– “There are two big forces at work, external and internal. We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is the internal force. How do I respond to those disasters? Over that I have complete control.” – Leo F. Buscaglia.
– “A tornado of thought is unleashed after each new insight. This in turn results in an earthquake of assumptions. These are natural disasters that reshape the spirit.” — Vera Nazarian.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal entertainment writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or scott.morris@djournal.com.