By Alice Ortiz/Monroe Journal
SMITHVILLE – Family and friends gathered Saturday to remember a tornado that ripped through town two years ago and to celebrate survival.
The second annual Smithville Memorial Day was held April 27, the same date two years ago that an EF5 tornado roared through, killing 16 and destroying 197 homes and businesses.
A community prayer service also was held on Friday night and the Smithville school was open for a visit.
“It was an awesome sight seeing that bright and shining star we have in the schools on that hill,” said Mayor Gregg Kennedy.
Kennedy said the second annual memorial day was a time to look back on the ones Smithville had lost and to look to Smithville’s future.
Two Community Hero Awards were presented at a memorial service. One was to Tim Coker for his dedicated sacrifice to the Smithville Fire Department and the community. The second was to 9-year-old Gabriel Estis.
“I have never met a young man who is as proud to be from Smithville,” Kennedy said. “He will help wherever he is needed. He helped plant the flower bulbs and he mows the yards of his neighbors. He also lost both of his grandparents in the tornado.”
Special guest speaker of the event was Mississippi Speaker of the House Phillip Gunn.
“The people of Smithville have been an inspiration to the state, our nation and the world,” said Gunn. “When a catastrophe happens, people watch how people respond, how they overcome adversity.
“Smithville has fought to overcome hardship that came your way. I am proud of how you have rebuilt and are rebuilding this town. The tragedy did not break you.”
Other dignitaries at Smithville Memorial Day were U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker of Tupelo, state Sen. Hob Bryan of Amory, and state Reps. Donnie Bell and Chris Brown.
“We were knocked down, but we got back up,” Kennedy said. “We are rebuilding our town by working together. The city is better prepared today for emergencies.”