How many of you have heard of my hometown of Louisville, Mississippi? Raise your hand. Now, how many of you have heard of Noxapater, Mississippi? Raise your hand…Both are small, loving towns that were greatly affected by the tornadoes on Monday, April 28; however, the affected areas in Noxapater were almost forgotten among all the chaos and rubble. While Louisville was receiving overwhelming support, supplies, and media coverage the morning after the storm–Noxapater was struggling to have enough water to quench the thirst of victims and volunteers. Areas such as Mars Hill, Plattsburg, Center Ridge, Tuck Wilkes Road, Liberty, Four Corners were all but forgotten…not by their local firefighters…not by the state troopers…not by Facebook posts…but they were just lost in the shuffle…lost to the bigger picture…the larger number….
I first learned about the need for help in the Noxapater area from Tonya Stevenson (Louisville resident). I had seen a few tweets and Facebook posts, but I had not seen any pictures or heard much on Tuesday during all my running around. To be perfectly honest…I assumed that all areas were getting the same overwhelming response…the same supplies…the same support from Red Cross and the like. Tonya asked me if I knew where Tuck Wilkes Road is in Noxapater was. I had to shake my head no and admit that I did not know much about Noxapater or the communities out that way…but thankfully the Garmin knew how to get me there…Well, it got me close…and divine intervention took me the rest of the way. So, off I went in my Beetle…Sugar was loaded down with bottles of water, sunscreen, and chapstick. She is a good car…willing to go anywhere…anytime.
Upon my arrival, a State Trooper blocking the road directed me where to take supplies. I thanked him then asked if he needed any water or supplies. At first, he looked at me a bit funny and then responded, “No, ma’am. I am fine. Those people up there need it more than I do.”
I happily continued up the road to the supply drop off location–and at first, I was unsure if I had the right place because I did not see MEMA or the Red Cross or a food truck set up or an ambulance or news media….I pulled into the driveway and got out where I was greeted by a local firefighter and his wife who then explained to me that there were nine people completely homeless, seven houses damaged beyond repair, and one person deceased in that area so far.
Let me tell y’all…it was a miracle I did not drop to my knees when the local firefighter (who kindly asked for his name not to be mentioned because he felt like he was only doing his job and wanted no praise) told me that. I was in total shock. I knew this area had been hit hard via Facebook posts, but I had no idea that there was so little outside support…I had no idea how bad it really was until I witnessed it in person…it was truly a miracle that there were not more injuries and death…
I hesitated to ask if any media outlets had come out to the area–but part of me just assumed the media would have already been there to get the story because they were covering the local tornado outbreak and Noxapater is, in fact, local. “Has the media been out to see y’all,” I asked. ” No, they have not. Someone just flew over yesterday (in a chopper),” the firefighter explained.
“Has Tyson been out to deliver hot meals to y’all,” I then asked. This question led to a bit of a discussion about how the area felt a little forgotten…but how the little community had banded together to help each other. I left Tuck Wilkes Road knowing I had to get the word out, and how I needed to stop back by Tyson and let them know that the Noxapater area needed their help. *SIDE NOTE* I want to give a big shout out to Tyson for immediately taking action. You guys rock…and so does your chicken! *thumbs up*
*ANOTHER SIDE NOTE* I want to give a big shout out to all of you that responded to the needs in the Noxapater area…those who retweeted, those who shared posts about needs and locations, those who gathered supplies, and those who distributed supplies to those rural areas…I really wish I knew how to express the amount of kindness and neighborly love I have witnessed. #StayStrong
The drop off location on Tuck Wilkes Road directed me to the Noxapater Fire Station to drop off my remaining supplies…and while driving to the fire station, I still found it hard to believe that the little community was almost forgotten…lost in the shuffle…in the rubble…. All I could think about was Ellison Ridge (the rural community where I grew up), and how upset I would be if no one helped during a tragic situation.
When tragedy strikes, there are no more county lines or city limits–we should all join together as ONE community to help one another. If someone is thirsty, give him or her water. If someone is hungry, feed him or her. If someone has lost everything, give him or her something to smile about…if you are unable to donate money or supplies…give of your time…say a prayer…offer a few words of comfort…don’t sit back and complain…get up and make a difference.
I arrived at the Noxapater Fire Department and began unloading supplies and chatting with the volunteers there–I was astonished at what they were doing to help. They did not have a disaster relief program there…but they had created one of their own…and it is a great one.
The local residents were feeding the victims, sheltering the victims, making care packages for the victims, allowing those that needed a shower a place to do so, and caring for the victims as if they were family…isn’t that how we should all be when disaster strikes? Do we really have to sit around and wait for someone to help if we have the ability to help one another? No–the answer is no.
After unloading the supplies, I took a few minutes to chat with Jennifer Clark (Noxapater Fire Department) and Dana Sullivan (who’s husband is on the Noxapater Fire Department) about how they were helping the Noxapater tornado victims. “We just wanted to set up a place for the workers to come in and eat and rest as well as the victims, which there are many here in Noxapater. People think Noxapater is just a four-way stop, but it is not–it is so much more than that,” explained Jennifer Clark “Right now, we are are distributing and rationing out supplies to those who really need them because they are having a big issue with people who really do not need anything taking the donated goods. So, here we have set up a little station where we are doing care packages–one per family–that is going to include paper towels, toilet paper, garbage bags, and basic hygiene necessities,” explained Dana Sullivan. “People can also come here [Noxapater Fire Department] and wash up in the bathroom if need be–we will supply shampoo, soap, and towels. We are also supplying families with any clothes that they might need–anyway we can help our community, we are going to do it–and we want it to be as stress-free as possible.”
These caring people banded together not to get praised, but because they truly wanted to help their neighbors. They did not want any credit or pomp and circumstance…they simply wanted to help…to supply those in need with what they needed…when they needed it…not waiting…but acting.
Please continue to support all of the areas that have suffered…from those who just suffered to those who are still recovering from such catastrophes as mudslides, tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires…because no one deserves to be forgotten…not even almost forgotten.