The Spirit of Hattiesburg
When I was 13 years old I ate my very first McDonald’s Big Mac in Hattiesburg, MS!!! MAN it was GOOD! I had been watching the commercials on tv for most of my childhood but we lived so far away and rarely made the the 30 mile trip from Columbia that the idea of actually ever getting to taste one seemed impossibly remote! But I remember going home that day and marking “Taste A Big MAc” off my THINGS TO DO WHEN I GROW UP list, and I actually noted off to the side in the margin of the paper “I just saw my FIRST BIG CITY”!
See, if you lived in the rural community of Bunker Hill where I grew up, trips to the small town of Columbia, (11 miles away) were a weekly occurrence but a trip to a city like Hattiesburg almost NEVER happened!
To ME, Hattiesburg was HUGE! and that was before there was a Turtle Creek Mall and all the other retail stores that have expanded the west side of the city.
About 4 weeks ago a tornado ripped through Hattiesburg, destroying homes and part of the USM campus. The videos of the tornado shocked and scared me and I prayed that no one lost their lives.
God is good, and not a single person died because of the tornado, which I consider a blessing and a miracle, but it did do quite a bit of damage.
On my way back home from Moss Point MS 2 weeks ago I drove through Hattiesburg, got out of my truck and walked around and surveyed the damage to USM and the area behind the campus which was hit the hardest and even talked to some residents there. I WAS AMAZED!!!!
And PROUD all over again!!
When Katrina tore up New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf coast and the National News Focused so heavily on the atrocities of looting and rape and murder in New Orleans I was SO PROUD of my home state of Mississippi!! Sure there were bad people doing bad things there too- but for the most part people went into immediate action cleaning up and rebuilding the gulf coast. Yes it took HEAVY damage and sadly, people lost their lives, their homes, their belongings, and even their property.
But what I saw then was the SPIRIT of my Home State, the RESOLVE to rebuild, repair, clean up, WITHOUT so much of the OMG WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO!!!!
People helped people, they banded together, they WORKED HARD, families took strangers into their homes and fed them and shared what they had to help them get back on their feet, and they cleaned up and REBUILT, thankful to God that there was still something left to rebuild. I was there, I helped, I SAW!!!!
The National News Media didn’t report the good things going on in Mississippi. They preferred to sensationalize the terrible things going on in the next state over, in New Orleans, often ignoring the INCREDIBLE GOOD things and people THERE as well! See, BAD NEWS equals ratings! Good news goes unnoticed!
BUT I NOTICED!!! Mississippi!!! What an incredible state and what an AMAZING PEOPLE!
I saw this same spirit at work in Hattiesburg last week! Crews working EVERYWHERE, rebuilding, repairing, cleaning up. To drive down the middle of Hardy Street where USM is accessed, I had to look closer than I thought I would to find signs of the tornadic disaster, because the cleanup done by the citizens and city had happened fast and effectively.
The homes destroyed and the damaged buildings were already being repaired, the damaged power lines and poles already going back up, and the twisted and shredded trees being removed.
As I walked around looking at people helping people I was filled with the same PRIDE as felt during the aftermath of Katrina.