EDITORIAL: Rebuilding lives

By NEMS Daily Journal

Residents in the paths of tornadoes that ripped through Northeast Mississippi April 26 and 27 won’t fully recover from the trauma for a long time, but an outpouring of sympathetic assistance from relief agencies, charities and individuals surely must have encouraged almost everyone in pain.
Several hundred thousand dollars from the private sector have been donated in cash to help recovery, and it has been quickly turned around and into aid for everything from emergency funds for residents of Monroe and Chickasaw counties to purchases of emergency food supplies provided directly to families who can use it, or for relief kitchens feeding the homeless and volunteers.
If the story sounds familiar it is because this worst tornado disaster in more than 75 years across its multi-state corridor has produced a response similar to that seen following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Towns and small cities like Smithville and Belmont, and rural counties like Chickasaw, Tishomingo, and Monroe became graphic images, along with Tuscaloosa and Birmingham, in the most prominent newspapers nationwide and worldwide, and on television everywhere.
At least some of the aid sent to Mississippi after the tornadoes has come from areas in Louisiana devastated by Katrina – the same areas where many Mississippi volunteers went to help after that catastrophe.
Soon, additional assistance probably will be needed as the Mississippi River floodwaters continue to rise, inundating thousands of acres in the Mississippi Delta counties from Memphis south to at least Vicksburg. Gov. Barbour and officials are briefing residents today in Cleveland at the annual meeting of the Delta Council, a regional development group whose gathering is usually celebrative – but not this year.
It has been helpful that Cabinet secretaries from the Obama administration visited Smithville, and President Obama visited Alabama. It appears that everyone involved from the government so far understands that a bungled response cannot happen, as after Katrina. Temporary housing, recovery programs, loans, grants and all other assistance must flow quickly to the individuals in dire straits.
As for the towns and counties themselves, their governing boards and residents are committed. Town meetings last week demonstrated a will to thrive again, and the road ahead needs to be leveled of any governmental bumps or potholes.
The congressional delegation is fully engaged in pushing from the inside, and that persistence may be needed for a long time.
Volunteers are needed still from the private sector, and all should check in at the baseball field by the Smithville school and register with FEMA. Volunteers will be assigned jobs. Cash can be donated to the Salvation Army, the Red Cross and other private-sector organizations equipped to respond.
Mississippi, as we all are reminded every year, is abundantly endowed by nature with assets producing prosperity and quality of life, but nature sometimes indiscriminately applies its forces beyond imagining.