By Emily Tubb
SMITHVILLE – A teary-eyed crowd filled the main room of the new Smithville Town Hall at Sunday’s dedication ceremony where Mayor Gregg Kennedy read the list of names of those killed during the tornado that hit the town three years ago.
“Three years ago today, almost to the minute, we lost 16 of our most prized possessions. Through the outpouring of support we have received, we know they are looking down upon us and smiling at how much has been accomplished,” said Kennedy.
The new building is the last of the 36 FEMA projects that were scheduled for the rebuilding of the city after the 2011 tornado decimated the town.
After an opening welcome by Vice Mayor Earl Wayne Cowley and an invocation led by state Rep. Chris Brown, an American flag presentation was made by Congressman Alan Nunnelee and a state flag presentation was made by a representative of Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Kennedy then addressed the crown again to talk about both the perseverance and the progress made in the town.
“We have a new school, not to mention our state of the art dome gymnasium and tornado shelter, four new churches, a new funeral home and medical facilities under construction. We’ve done a lot to get here today but don’t ever think the world will come running to you. To get things done you have to ask for help,” said Kennedy, who then introduced Gov. Phil Bryant and first lady Deborah Bryant.
Gov. Bryant said when he arrived in Smithville following the tornado, he saw a town under the worst conditions he had seen since Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005 and was left feeling momentarily helpless.
“It became clear to me, though, that if no one at all had showed up to help, y’all were going to make it. That determination is specific to our American culture,” said Bryant.
The ceremony, which was scheduled to take place between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., was wrapped up early due to a conference call the governor was scheduled to have with 911 directors across the state to discuss the possible storms facing the area in the coming days.