John Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 12, 2009

John Howell Sr.

Counting: Fallen trees, damaged homes, blessings

Homes damaged – 196; homes totally destroyed or almost – 22. That was Panola Emergency Management Director Daniel Cole’s report to supervisors on Monday about damage from last Wednesday’s violent winds.

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Amazing. Now we can go on to concern about economic loss, but how fortunate we are not to be discussing fatalities and broken bones and lacerations after all those trees fell on all those houses with all those people in them.

Did you go down Church Street and see for yourself just how a big tree can shatter a house? Not just slice through the structure, but smash it into giblets.

But instead of mourning about the loss of friends, we soon found ourselves comforting them about their property losses.

And for some reason I kept running into Sheila Pounders. First it was Tuesday night awaiting the Como election count. She had gone there with friends. I was there to try to get some figures for the paper. She was on the phone with her mother and told me the election returns in Batesville.

Little did I know that she would be among the first people I’d see the next morning on Church Street as residents and passersby like us struggled to find words appropriate to describe the violence that had so suddenly and drastically altered the normally bucolic and scenic street.

Then again on Thursday, Sheila was among the first people I saw. I had returned to Church and Bates Streets that morning and went to Piggly Wiggly where I met her pushing a loaded cart.

They had fed the neighborhood at Court Street Catering the night before, she said. A large tree had blown down in the yard, but their power was uninterrupted. So they did what they do best.

We call it comfort food. During times of stress we in the South start cooking. Those who are able cook for those who are not. The physical act produces a tangible outcome, yet the process comforts beyond the physical for both the producer and the consumer.

Comfort food indeed.