In September, the anniversary of a horrific event will be reached every single American alive at the time will vividly remember. It’s hard to believe it’s almost 20 years ago that the worst terrorist attack in American history changed the world.

Most everyone can give a detailed description from that day from where they were and how they coped to take a break from those scenes of destruction on TV.

For the last 10 years in Monroe County, plenty of residents have come and gone. For those still here, everyone has a detailed description of April 27, 2011 – the day that changed Monroe County history and the region’s sense of severe thunderstorm awareness seemingly forever.

Like the highly active 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, spring of 2011 came with one storm after another. For the entire year in 2011, there were 1,703 tornadoes causing $26.54 billion in damage nationwide.

Of the six EF-5-rated tornadoes that year, Smithville was struck. Those six tornadoes represented less than one percent of all of the tornadoes that year but gained 100 percent of attentions when people saw those scenes of destruction.

Growing up here, we were used to an occasional tornado but felt sorry for people living in Tornado Alley in Kansas and Oklahoma in the ‘80s, ‘90s and early ‘00s. For whatever reason, our region seems shaded in the tornado warning/watch areas more than those states to the west now.

It’s not easy living in Dixie Alley. It’s not easy having sleepless nights watching meteorologists track severe storms heading close to your hometown. It’s not easy seeing people in your town or right down the road suffer from the forces of volatile weather.

I vividly remember waking up for the first time after 3 a.m. April 27, 2011 by the first round of tornado sirens of that long day. I’ve described it several times like a World War II air raid – the sirens were blaring and the sky was flashing.

Right up the road, Wren was hit by an EF-3 tornado at that time. By 7 a.m., there was a report of another small tornado in Prairie.

I remember being in Wren taking pictures of the destruction later in the day. There were twisted trees, damaged homes, scattered insulation and tested emotions.

I vividly remember walking through the yard of one home taking photos after one family member gave the okay to do so. Another family member asked me to delete the pictures, adding, “Unless you’ve been through this, you don’t know how this feels.” She was right.

In covering numerous other pop-up storms and tornadoes since then, all I can do is sympathize with people because I truly don’t know how it feels.

In driving through the area, I got the call that a bad storm was developing in Chickasaw and heading towards Wren.

Who could have ever imagined that small community would be struck again? Who could have ever imagined the storm would intensify and devastate Smithville?

For as long as these generations are alive, we’ll ponder those questions. We’ll relive that day in our memories. We’ll think back to that day whenever we’re shaded in the tornado warning/watch areas.

It’s hard to think that was 10 years ago but the older you get, the faster our busy lives get us through these decades. There are plenty of occasions that are harder to recall, but days such as April 27, 2011 and Sept. 11, 2001 will never be forgotten.

They’re unimaginable but they are reality.

Thinking back to National Guard Hummers, Mississippi Highway Patrol road blocks after curfew and people walking the streets of Smithville in arm slings really did make it look like a war zone.

The twisted trees, trucks that were hurled from yards away and leveled homes, churches and buildings are scenes you can’t erase from your mind. They’re unimaginable but they are reality.

It’s not easy living in Dixie Alley. The sleepless nights aren’t easy, the storm cleanup isn’t easy, the floods aren’t easy, and seeing people we know suffer isn’t easy.

I dare say if you live in Monroe County, you’ve seen what severe weather can do. From pop-up storms to EF-0s to the EF-5 to flash floods, our towns and places off of our county roads have experienced a wide range of Mother Nature’s fury.

We’ve experienced hearing the people’s first-hand accounts and experienced trying to do something to help them after the fact.

The past 10 years have taught us to be more weather aware, more sympathetic and less selfish in helping our neighbors, and those 10 years have gone by with a blink.

What may or may not happen in the next 10 years, we can’t predict but we know it will be here before we know it.

RAY VAN DUSEN is the managing editor of the Monroe Journal. he can be reached at

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