By Hazel Trice Edney
A deadly tornado killed at least 26 people in 80 percent Black Rolling Fork, Mississippi on the night of March 24, leaving the surviving population destitute and pleading for help. As news agencies have now turned to another mass shooting in Nashville, attention has faded from the people of Rolling Fork, but they are receiving help from politicians, private and public disaster assistance agencies, churches and kind-hearted volunteers.
“Friend – a series of violent tornadoes have devastated Mississippi and neighboring areas: destroying homes, damaging businesses, and tragically taking at least 26 lives,” the NAACP wrote in a mass email appealing for help from its members. “The NAACP is urgently responding to Mississippi’s state of emergency. We’re coordinating relief efforts with the Red Cross, Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, and local branch leaders so that every Mississippian gets the support they need ASAP. Your donation, no matter how large or small, will help our teams on the ground provide shelter, food, water, and other essentials to NAACP members and others who are suffering.
According to Abre’ Conner, NAACP director of Environmental and Climate Justice, author of the email, “In some areas, the destruction evokes horrifying memories of record-breaking storms like 2005s Hurricane Katrina and 2011s Tuscaloosa-Birmingham tornado.”
He concludes, “A rapid and robust response is essential. With hundreds of Americans displaced and untold damage done, we’re calling on our nationwide NAACP community to come together and support the families and individuals suffering from this disaster.”
Emergency responders are on the scene, but the rare tornado which was on the ground for more than an hour, destroyed homes, businesses and cars beyond imagination. According to initial reports, Diesel trucks were flipped over and cars were picked up and dropped on top of buildings and debris piled as high as 20 feet tall. Rolling Fork, Silver City, Black Hawk and Winona were hit hardest by the EF-4 tornado that tour through the area late Friday night, March 24.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a state of emergency for all the counties affected by the severe weather, describing the state as “devastated.”
Rolling Fork Mayor, who led the governor on a tour of the destruction, expressed appreciation for those who are sending help and expressed hope amidst the tragedy.
“On behalf of this entire community, first we want to say thank you. We want to thank you for all you’re doing for the families of this community and making sure the city of Rolling Fork will come back bigger and better than ever before,” Walker told the media.
“Now, I’m having to meet my families, those who have lost loved ones, and help them make it through this traumatic time,” Walker said. “But you know what? I’m a firm believer that when you do right, right will follow you. And I think that I’ve been prepared to take on this task and I am going to do it in the name of the mayor of Rolling Fork and the man that I am and the man that God has made me to be.”