I spent much of Monday night out in the rain and debris of the evening storms.

Moving throughout felt a lot like it did four years ago, when the 2014 tornado roared through town – albeit with considerably less damage.

I was driving and walking the same streets I have my entire life. Having been born and raised here, I knew the terrain and knew what I was capable of managing within the realm of my vehicle.

While some have had unfathomable damage to their homes and several senior citizens were displaced from their assisted living domicile – it was pleasant to see that the majority of our fair hamlet was unscathed.

I drove around downed trees and limbs, Waste Management containers and a plethora of displaced election signs – but Tupelo, for the most part, survived another attack from Mother Nature.

And – if I’m being completely honest – it felt a little good to drive over the election signs mere hours before the polls opened.

We are, of course, no stranger to disastrous weather conditions in Northeast Mississippi.

Several in the area can still recount their experiences in 1936, when one of at least 12 tornadoes struck the region from April 5 to 6.

History tells us approximately 454 people were killed by the storms – 419 by two tornadoes alone. This outbreak is the second deadliest ever recorded in U.S. history.

Compared to those storms 80 years ago, Monday’s event wasn’t even a blip on the radar for the majority of us.

But, when faced with devastation, it’s always a welcome reminder of exactly what we have here and in our surrounding communities – and why it’s so important we continue to invest in it.

I’m not just talking about financially. Investing in Tupelo – and Northeast Mississippi as a whole – is a worthwhile endeavor. It reminds us that what we do here matters, from many standpoints.

Our geographic location – 130 miles to Birmingham, 200 miles to Nashville and 340 miles to New Orleans – put us just slightly off center of a booming influx of modern, positive change.

But our prime locale also allows us to protect those smaller communities within, ones where families may have lived for generations, attending the same church congregations for decades and fellowshipping within the same small businesses or restaurants.

Tupelo is, for all intents and purposes, a living organism. It is fueled by the arts, locally owned businesses, the people that populate it and the stories that come out of it.

It’s a stark reminder that what we have here matters and often winds up on a larger stage – whether it’s our affinity for Elvis or even ending up on The Weather Channel to discuss destruction.

Investing in what we have here is truly work, but the payoff is indeed rewarding. It’s why we have things that benefit our populous, like the North Mississippi Symphony Orchestra or the recent Tupelo Transit initiative.

While drastically different in design, both of those items were born out of a simple need or ideal.

That’s one reason why working together as a community is such an important asset to a micropolitan like ours. Whether under sunny skies or dark clouds, our people have always been good about reaching out to those in need to lend a helping hand.

In an age of divisiveness, cheap rhetoric and forgotten niceties, it’s inspiring that even something as common as a weather pattern can bring people together to provide aid, rebuild and move forward.

No storm can take the Tupelo Spirit away from us.

W. Derek Russell is a columnist and the Daily Journal’s features, arts and entertainment reporter. Contact him on Twitter @wderekrussell or email him at derek.russell@journalinc.com.

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