Saturday was a day of contrasts in Tupelo. On the one hand, some special events proceeded as planned – the Blue Suede Cruise, a 90-team baseball tournament – and fixtures such as Tupelo Community Theatre went on with the show.
Yet elsewhere a force of volunteers literally in the thousands spread across the hardest hit areas of the city and county to provide the biggest boost for cleanup since Monday’s tornado sent trees tumbling, roofs and walls collapsing and debris flying everywhere.
Many of those volunteers were from out of town, sacrificing time and energy and money to come to the aid of people they likely don’t even know in a community that is not theirs. Tupeloans are grateful for their help.
Others were local people who were following a simple impulse to so something, anything useful, to help get the people most affected by the storm back on their feet.
In one sense, it was a normal day in Tupelo. And yet at the same time it was extraordinary.
It will be that way in all likelihood for at least the next several months. The recovery will continue without abatement; all the activity surrounding it will be a constant reminder that we’re in an unusual time. Yet even for those most in need of the boost the recovery will give, it will be important to return to some sense of normalcy.
It will be a time that will require extraordinary efforts by public officials and everyone else. But it will also be necessary to keep the normal routine of the city in progress.
It was good that the events scheduled for the weekend have, for the most part, continued as scheduled. Next weekend brings Tupelo’s oldest festival – Gum Tree – and organizers are moving ahead as planned with all that it means for the city.
The simultaneous Gum Tree 10k run will be run next Saturday morning as scheduled. It will pass through one of the most heavily damaged areas of the city, which should be a high moment for exposition of the “Tupelo Spirit.”
Tupelo’s historic narrative and its self-image is of a community that meets challenges, that beats the odds, and that overcomes adversity to lead the way for other communities. If you look at it that way, this terrible storm has simply given Tupelo a new opportunity to demonstrate its character and resilience.
No doubt, the people of Tupelo will. Part of that will involve days like Saturday which blend extraordinary efforts with the day-to-day routine and special events that are the community’s defining rituals.