LENA MITCHELL: Mississippians show strong character in the face of life’s storms

The sun was so bright on May 3 that it almost hurt your eyes.
From that Monday and throughout the week following May 1 and May 2, when storms, tornadoes and floods wreaked destruction across six northeast Mississippi counties, there was hardly a cloud in the sky.
Six people perished in weather-related incidents that weekend.
Only homes turned into kindling, mounds of waterlogged furniture and personal belongings, uprooted centuries-old trees and washed-out bridges and roadways were visible signs of the devastation marking communities in Lafayette, Benton, Tippah, Alcorn, Prentiss and Tishomingo counties.
Throughout the week as I drove around Corinth, Alcorn, Prentiss, Tippah and Tishomingo counties, I was awestruck by the power of Mother Nature.
Record-setting rainfalls were recorded throughout the area. Corinth and Alcorn County were swamped with flood depths never before seen by long-time city and county residents. A tornado that tore through Benton and Tippah counties ripped from the ground trees that Mother Nature herself had been nurturing for centuries.
Even after most of the flood waters had receded, some streets and open fields remained submerged, and waters still ran high in many drainage ditches.
Beneath the bright light of the sun, people whose lives were shattered by the weekend’s events could see just how extensive the damage was.
Residents in Corinth’s Combs Court apartments saw their worldly possessions piled up outside the buildings that had been home, most of it not salvageable. People in Ashland and the Brownfield community picked through the rubble for whatever might remain that was useful.
Working alongside those suffering, hurting people, though, was a brigade of compassionate volunteers whose only thought was to help.
Amid the grief and despair of people who lost so much, the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Assemblies of God, Southern Baptist Convention, the Salvation Army, local government agencies, individuals and so many others reached out with practical help and hope.
A woman in north Tippah County sat outside her home, the roof open to the sky from a fallen tree, giving thanks for meals brought by the American Red Cross “almost as soon as we got back to the house,” she said.
Workers from the Assemblies of God Mississippi Disaster Response had just removed the tree from her roof and were busy with chainsaws cutting it into manageable pieces. Their work also revealed a crushed automobile.
A statue of the Virgin Mary stood on the home’s front lawn, untouched by the storm’s fury. Despite all the damage, the homeowners called themselves blessed for their own safety and that the damage wasn’t worse.
“We’re really into volunteering,” the woman said, “and we’ve never been on the receiving end of help like this before.”
Mississippians have a national reputation for charitable giving that is disproportionately large compared to the state’s level of poverty.
When one Daily Journal reader learned that three members of a family remained in critical condition in three different hospitals after their home was tossed about in the tornado, almost before the ink on the newspaper was dry she was on the phone asking where she could send a donation for the family.
That kind of deep caring, coupled with a roll-up-your-sleeves way of responding to these kinds of crises and tragedies, are hallmarks of our strong and resilient communities.
They’re among the many qualities that can make us proud to call Mississippi home.

Lena Mitchell is the Daily Journal Corinth Bureau reporter. Contact her at (662) 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com.

Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal