A Small Community Almost Forgotten Among the Chaos and Rubble of the Tragic EF4 Tornado

unnamed (24)

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…. 

Huge tree down on Tuck Wilkes Road in Noxapater.
Huge tree down on Tuck Wilkes Road in Noxapater.

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.”

This photo was taken on Tuck Wilkes Road in Noxapater, Mississippi.
This photo was taken on Tuck Wilkes Road in Noxapater.

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.

*deep breath*

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

More of the damage on Tuck Wilkes Road.
More of the damage on Tuck Wilkes Road.

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.

Volunteers hard at work at the Noxapater Fire Department.
Volunteers hard at work at the Noxapater Fire Department.

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.

Some of the care packages the volunteers at the Noxapater Fire Department put together for the tornado victims.
Some of the care packages the volunteers at the Noxapater Fire Department put together for the tornado victims.

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.” 

Snacks for workers, volunteers, and victims at the Noxapater Fire Department.
Snacks for workers, volunteers, and victims at the Noxapater Fire Department.
Young volunteers stepping out to help the local tornado victims. They were rounding up supplies for the household care packages (paper towels, garbage bags, and so forth).
Young volunteers stepping up to help the local tornado victims.

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.

unnamed

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.

unnamed (7)

Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn

Advertisement

Louisville Begins to Recover after EF4 Tornado

 

Photo Credit: Tyler Wright
Photo Credit: Tyler Wright

My hometown of Louisville, Mississippi is in the beginning stage of recovery after the EF4 tornado ripped through several areas of  it and the county of Winston on Monday. With the help of FEMA, MEMA, The Red Cross, Samaritan’s Purse, The National Guard, Mississippi Highway Patrol (State Troopers), Mississippi State University (MSU), Tyson Food INC., Atmos Energy–just to name a few–the residents are seeing a little light of hope. Not only have we received great attention from national corporations, but we have also received immediate and overwhelming support from our local fire departments, churches, police, and businesses. Everywhere I look, I see someone volunteering, donating, organizing, cutting up fallen trees, removing debris, and distributing supplies to specific locations–that is what I have been doing all day…*SIDE NOTE* If you have ever doubted the amount of room in a Volkswagen Beetle…let me tell you, doubt no more. How much did it hold? A ridiculous amount…an awesome kind of ridiculous! My little car made it easy to zip around the debris and to get supplies to those in need. Thanks, Sugar (yes, I also named my car…I digress.)

I love this photo Amberle Rogers snapped of me in the mirror while we were distributing supplies throughout Louisville.
I love this photo Amberle Rogers snapped of me in the mirror while we were distributing supplies throughout Louisville.

While making deliveries on Brooksville Road, I stopped and asked a woman if she needed any water. She took several bottles gratefully and before I pulled away, she asked, “I know this is probably a stupid question, but I really gotta’ ask–Would you happen to have a cup of coffee or know where I could get one? A cup of good coffee would be really nice right about now.”  I had no coffee…nor anyway to get her any…my heart was breaking as I explained to the woman I had no coffee…BUT then, something fabulous happened. A  man came up to where I was parked and exclaimed, “I can make you a cup of coffee! We will have to do it one cup at a time–but I can get you some coffee.” The woman’s face lit up with joy. “Really? You can do that! Oh, thank you, thank you!”

Photo Credit: Tyler Wright  This photo was taken on Armstrong Street in Louisville.
Photo Credit: Tyler Wright
This photo was taken on Armstrong Street in Louisville.

I gave the strangers–I wish I would have gotten their names–more bottled water to make coffee and stay hydrated. *SIDE NOTE* Louisville is currently under a boil water notice….Driving away, all I could think was, “Wow…who knew a cup of coffee could make someone smile so big. Thank you, God, for working a quick little miracle just then…Thank you.” I then continued my mission…I must have shouted “Do you need any water, sunscreen, and chapstick?” a million times today…That simple question brought smiles…at times tears…to those receiving the basic supplies…and to the giver….

Photo Credit: Amberle Rogers Volunteers working hard at the Louisville Coliseum.
Photo Credit: Amberle Rogers
Volunteers working hard at the Louisville Coliseum.

Those affected by the storms are not the only ones who need food and good ole’ Mississippi Hospitality…right? Right! That is why I have been on a mission the past two days to not only volunteer, but to also chat with those caring for the first responders, utility workers, and the many volunteers here in Louisville, Mississippi and Winston County. 

The VIP with the Atmos team in Louisville.
The VIP with the Atmos team in Louisville.

We [Atmos Energy] are all about helping during situations like these. When we heard the news, we got food together to feed the first responders in this area because the workers and volunteers cannot work efficiently if they are hungry. It is important for your power/electricity to work efficiently just as it is important for the first responders here to be fed and working efficiently to help clean up Louisville,” explained Stefan H. Lehnerer, P.E. (Operations Manager at Atmos Energy) as we chatted at their tent on Tuesday, April 29. At this time, the tent was located in the Walmart parking lot. *Side Note* There are a lot of good things happening at the Walmart parking lot for the tornado victims…from food to medical help…even potty johns.

unnamed (13)

Tyson Food INC. is also in Louisville feeding the victims, volunteers, workers, and first responders. I had a chance to speak with Mark Smith (Manager) today about what Tyson was doing to help–“As soon as we heard about the storm that came through, we contacted corporate and mobilized a team from Carthage, Mississippi to come down and help feed everyone. We have a community service department and disaster relief team who helped us reach out to this area and get cookers out here–we also spoke with The Red Cross about what their needs were in this situation so that we could find out how we [Tyson] could help,” explained Mike Smith at one of their cooking stations at the Louisville Walmart. “We are running vehicles in and out of the hardest hit areas–hand delivering meals to the workers, volunteers, and victims. We have a total of four vans and a ton of people helping us distribute these meals and get them to who needs them. In fact, we have an order for two hundred meals being filled right now that will be distributed shortly…At about 10:30 today, we had already served five hundred plus people, and we are expecting to feed around twenty-five hundred to three thousand people today. We will continue to stay here working in conjunction with The Red Cross and Walmart to help feed and distribute food/water to the areas that need it most.” Before calling it a day, I stopped back by the Tyson truck at Louisville Walmart to get a count of just how many people Tyson had served today in Louisville. “I do not have a exact amount, but overall, we [Tyson] have served about twenty-five hundred people today. We are expected to feed about three thousand plus people tomorrow,” stated Mike Smith.

The VIP chatting with Mike Smith and Cyd Landing of Tyson Food INC.
The VIP chatting with Mike Smith and Cyd Landing of Tyson Food INC.

Also from Tyson Food INC. I chatted with Cyd Landing (Chaplain) about how Tyson is getting involved to help the Louisville tornado victims. “We have two chaplains here today, and we will have another one in tomorrow [Thursday, May 1] to set up a crisis relief for people who come in and need help. There has been a lot of devastation here, and people have seen a lot of devastating things–and we want to help them overcome it. We have special team members that are going to be helping people deal with PTSD, trauma, and the crisis of this overall situation. We are a team here at Tyson, but we are also a family. When we see our people in need, we are there to take care of them. So, we came here, we set up, and we are here to help as many people in this area as we can. I am so thankful that Tyson is a company that cares enough to help out and provide the need of a hot meal in a situation like this,” explained Cyd Landing.

The beautiful sunset over Louisville, Mississippi tonight. This is a silver lining to the tornado tragedy.
The beautiful sunset over Louisville, Mississippi tonight. Stay strong, Louisville and Winston County. #PrayForLouisville

Recapping some of the things that happened over the past two days has me in tears right now…I cannot believe the destruction I have seen–but I also cannot believe the amount of love and support I have witnessed. Yesterday, I had a hard time processing the entire situation. Part of me knew it was real…and another part of me was just hoping it was a bad dream that would go away. Unfortunately…when I drove into town today…it was not a dream…it was real…a little too real. The stories that I have heard…the miracles that happened…the loss of loved ones…search and rescue accounts…stories about which I cannot write because there are no words to describe the tragedy…to describe the miracles…to describe the tears…the fears…no, I am unable to write those stories…but this I can tell y’all, beloved readers…these stories are being shared…and the tears are being wiped…and hugs are being given.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Please stay tuned for a big story about a little community…inside a little town…that will have you reaching for a box of tissues. 

BmalqXeCIAAAHLx

Stay Fabulous,

Abby Hathorn