A Great Mississippi Story That Was Almost Untold

Below is a Facebook post that William Tate “Buddy” King, Winston County Emergency Management Agency, posted shortly after the tragic Louisville Tornado:

“I do have one story to share that I have been asked not to tell. I hope it doesn’t get me in too much trouble, because I just have to share it. This story will make the hardest heart believe in the goodness in a human’s heart and soul.

phil_and_deborah_bryantAs we were sitting here in my office Monday afternoon watching the destruction in Tupelo and monitoring a storm that was developing and heading our way, Captain Clay Bane called me aside and asked me if we had a safe place to shelter a dignitary. I assured him that we did, he then introduced me to the First Lady, Mrs. Bryant.

She told me she had been traveling to Tupelo to read to some Elementary students there and the tornado there had caused her to turn around and head back towards Jackson. She had made it this far when she was alerted to the storm coming out of the south that we had been watching. She was very charming and relieved some of the stress we were having in watching the storms.

The storm coming toward Louisville began to intensify and we began to study it path more closely. as it reached the county line a deputy reported that it was actually a tornado on the ground in South Winston County. We all became very busy in sounding sirens, putting out pages, Facebook postings, two way radio information, as busy as we get in this office. The First Lady stood back out of the way watched as everyone worked so hard to get the information out. As it became more clear that the storm was headed toward Louisville, she was escorted to interior of the courthouse. As damage reports began to flood in I really lost track of get. Due to the large number of people who came to the courthouse to seek shelter, I left and went to the 911 Center to gave more direct communications with our first responders and began to receive devastating reports. The 911 Center soon became full of people and I moved to the Louisville City Council Chambers to be able to communicate with the various responders. Things became intense quickly.

About an hour and a half I realized that Mrs.Bryant was still at the courthouse and I made contact with the MHP to try and get her an ex court to a safer place. She overhead my radio traffic from one of the first responders and had one call me on the radio and tell me that she wasn’t going anywhere.
I then ask that she come to Louisville City Hall where there was more area and she could assist with the response.

I need to explain something about my job here. Probably one of the most difficult responsibilities of my job is in setting up temporary shelters. Which requires working with several different agencies to establish safe places where displaced families cam get out of the weather and sleep, eat and recover from the trauma they had been through. Given that it was already late afternoon, I knew it would be an even more difficult process with a time limit.

We were running short of people that I could assign tasks to at the time, so I gave the First Lady the job of setting up shelters and moved on to other important response activities. Knowing the she wouldn’t get very far considering the number of agencies involved, transportation, food, cots, security.

About an hour later we began to get requests for shelters, not only for the displaced families with storm damage but on top of that the nursing home residents all had to have a very specialized shelter.

When I checked back with the First Lady, I just knew we would be behind on getting shelters.

Much to my surprise she reported to be that she had established a special shelter for the 100 nursing home patients and they were in the process of being transported to it, AND she had established a shelter for the first 100 people who needed shelter AND she had a third shelter set up if there was more than a hundred that needed it immediately. I have been in this business for 30 years and I promise you, that even if that was the only task I was working on, I could not have made it happen.

Not only did she set-up the shelters, she was at the shelters making sure that everyone’s needs we’re taken care of. This was around 2 am last time I saw her.
I have no idea if she ever laid down but I do know she was out tending to these shelters very early the next morning.

With so much going on and the shelters doing their job, I was able to move on to so many more issues.

I lost track of the First Lady, after all she didn’t need my help and so many more did.

I did not see her until this afternoon at a press conference the Governor held at Louisville City Hall. And folks the First Lady was not in front of the cameras, she was on the back row with me. As the Governor was giving the numbers of deaths in Winston County I had such a sinking feeling. She noticed and told me I looked like I needed a hug and gave me the best hug I had since this all started.

It’s the worst times in life when the best people appear out of no where.

I know this post is long, and I had been asked not to share, but someone out there needs to hear about the nature of some of the people who are helping people in Winston County.”