Juneteenth 2023 was a day of celebration until an E2 tornado made its way through the River City of Moss Point. As bad as that sounds, the good news is that there was no loss of life. The evolving and uplifting news is how this small coastal community has risen to the occasion with an army of new friends that have come from far and wide to help.
A large part of this story is about local leadership. The kind of leadership that knows what to do and who to contact to ensure that every possible avenue of rescue, clean up and recovery would be put in play as soon as possible. For Mayor Billy Knight, Sr., that process began within minutes after the storm passed. From the establishment of a Storm Disaster Recovery Center, to the engagement of the Red Cross and other emergency responders, those boots were on the ground quickly.
What has happened over the past week is a story of strength, resilience and hope of a community that is going through the stages of shock and disbelief, sadness, but now determination to recover. This is also a story about the many hands that came to help in the immediate aftermath, but as importantly, the hands that will be needed in the weeks, months and years to come. As those of us who have weathered storms before, this process will take a while. But as Mayor Knight is known to say, “We are all in this together”.
Immediate responses by volunteers and disaster relief organizations took a multitude of paths, including local and outside groups that came to help cleanup, feed people, deliver water to survivors and volunteers, help at the Disaster Recovery Center, and more. They were all welcomed with open arms and directed by the command center to where they needed to be. To pick one story among the many is hard, but the one that I had the honor of experiencing firsthand is as good as any in defining the hope of those most affected by this storm.
A Purse is Found. On Sunday morning, seven days after the storm, a lady and her sister stood next to the pile of rubble that was their home. The sister that had lived there and survived the storm was hoping to find her purse. As I arrived with a crew of volunteer Rotarians from Fairhope and Baldwin County, Alabama, I offered to help – to keep those ladies from wading through the dangerous debris. We found it, and her scream of joy was audible to anyone nearby, and as good an example of relief and hope as any.
But, the journey to recover has just begun. Many first responders and volunteers will leave. We will thank them and hope to never have to welcome them back for this kind of help. Local community organizations will of course remain and continue to help rebuild the community. As a member of the Rotary Club of Moss Point, I am especially proud of the roles that my fellow Rotarians undertook across the community, as well as that of Rotarians from surrounding communities and my newfound friends from Alabama! Service Above Self is not just words, especially in times like these. This is equally true of the many local churches and community organizations that showed up, some working amongst the rubble!
A week has passed, but the work of recovery will continue, and Moss Point needs your help. Here are ways to assist. For continued volunteer opportunities, call the Disaster Recovery Center at (228) 990-4222 for assignments.
A Rebuild Moss Point recovery account has been established through Merchants and Marine Bank, that will be administered through United Way of Jackson & George Counties and support vetted requests for materials needed for rebuilding. Contributions can be made in any of three ways:
- Visit any M&M Branch
- Call M&M Bank at (228) 762-3311
- Visit the United Way Website using the following link (choose Moss Point Tornado) https://fundraise.givesmart.com/form/cXk0Tg?&vid=zcskr
Hope is a powerful emotion, fed by heartfelt responses from people helping others in need. The key to recovery is to continue to do just that.
Photos courtesy of Mark LaSalle and the Rotary Club of Fairhope