OUR OPINION: Tornado’s destruction can build community

The most remarkable thing about Monday’s terrible events in Tupelo and nearby areas was that only one person died and only a handful suffered serious injuries.

One death is tragic, but it could have been so many more. We are extraordinarily fortunate that deaths and injuries weren’t greater.

Yet many in Tupelo, the Auburn community and Itawamba County do have grieving of a sort to do. Many lost homes entirely. Others sustained damage that will displace them for a while, if not permanently. Some business owners face tough decisions about whether to rebuild and reopen. Houses of worship loved by their members have been destroyed or badly damaged. Almost everybody in the hardest-hit neighborhoods walked out in the aftermath of the storm to surroundings much different than what they’d known before. It’s jarring to see only sky or match-stick remnants where lush, tree-shaded streets used to be.

It will require adjusting. It won’t be emotionally easy. But it will be all right in due time.

The shock of Monday’s tornado will never be forgotten but it will eventually wear off. What happens in the meantime, if the history of Tupelo is any indication, will be a strengthening of the bonds of community and a renewed spirit of unity and purpose. You can already see it developing. People working together to clear debris. Volunteers from neighborhoods bypassed by the tornado helping out in the stricken ones. People looking for a variety of ways to help each other through a difficult time.

This is the very definition of community: People coming together for their mutual benefit and support.

Strong neighborhoods are the backbone of a healthy and vibrant community. Tupelo has such neighborhoods, and though some of them will be, for a time, physically marred, that can’t destroy the sense of connection the people who live in them feel.

It’s worth pondering the timing of this tornado as Tupelo is in the middle of an ongoing debate about how to salvage older, declining neighborhoods and keep stable neighborhoods healthy.

While a sense of connection isn’t all that’s needed to improve or turn around neighborhoods, it’s a prerequisite. If you don’t feel connected to your neighbors, you’re less likely to take pride in your neighborhood.

Trying times like these make better neighbors and stronger neighborhoods. That in turn makes a stronger community.

Looking for the good in Monday’s events? That’s where you’ll find it.

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