As Tupelo begins its second month of recovery from the April 28 tornado the advantages of close-knit neighborhoods and the supportive interactions of those neighbors in the face of crisis has become one of the city’s sources of visible strength and optimism.
Monday’s front-page story about Leslie Mart, the communicator-in-chief for the Joyner Neighborhood Association, underscores the importance of continuity and encouragement beyond any previous events after a natural disaster like a tornado
Since the April 28 tornado, streets in the sprawling Joyner neighborhood have seen a flurry of activity with residents and volunteers cleaning up and workers repairing homes, even as debris awaits removal.
Joyner, site of 170 of the more than 700 structures damaged citywide, faces a period of recovery that can be largely successful over time with reinvestment in damaged homes and reforestation of an impressive tree canopy that had grown largely undisturbed since the neighborhood was built after World War II.
Sometimes, patience becomes one of the saving virtues following a natural tragedy with widespread damage.
Mart said the Joyner Facebook group has swollen to 465 members, a 170 percent increase since before the tornado. Immediately after the tornado, many people without electricity and other basic resources relied on online social networks for information.
Mart’s communications, which have included helping find lost pets, demonstrate the range of necessities and quality-of-life issues taken for granted when situations are normal.
“I made it my job to get the information out there and be the conduit,” she said.
Everyone in other neighborhoods like Joyner in Tupelo has legitimate concerns about some pieces in the recovery puzzle, but a willingness to remain supportive of one another also suggests a willingness to work together for the common good.
As Mart said, the Joyner neighborhood eventually will improve beyond the place residents remember before the tornado.
“We’ll come out of this stronger because we know each other better,” she said. “It means so much that you feel that you belong someplace, can make a difference and the people care that you’re there.”
Holding that idea, a direct outgrowth of the famous “Tupelo spirit,” is a key to recovery across the city.