Smithville rises from ashes after EF-5 twister - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Smithville rises from ashes after EF-5 twister

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    Friday, October 4 2013 3:43 PM EDT2013-10-04 19:43:45 GMT
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SMITHVILLE, Miss. (FOX13) -

Two years ago the small town of Smithville, Miss., was ripped from the map after a destructive EF-5 tornado, killing 15 of the town's 800 residents and devastating most of the community's homes,  businesses and schools.

As the new school year gets underway, Smithville's kids are enjoying new rebuilt schools and a basketball arena that serves a dual purpose.

Two years ago they allowed us to walk with them through the doorway of their despair.

A year later they shared with us their hopes, cautious optimism, and their unbending resolve to rebound.

"A lot of people are waiting to see, they're waiting to see if there's a grocery store coming," said Smithville Recovery Team member Michelle Voyles Bond in 2011. "Is the school coming back? I think once we're able to announce those things, I don't have any doubt we'll have people coming back.

"But, we'll start seeing the fruits of our labor down the road."

"There's a lot to be said about neighbor helping neighbor because you will begin to measure the resiliency of a community," said Bob Nations.

Just this month for the first time since a devastating EF-5 tornado leveled their town in 10 seconds on April 27, 2011, the children of  Smithville are finally reaping the benefits of  the town's ambitious plan for recovery.

It includes the opening of a multi-purpose geodesic dome on the school's renovated campus, a $2 million structure which will not only serve as a basketball arena, but most importantly as a reinforced safe haven for the entire population to take shelter  if another tornado, equivalent to the one that destroyed their town, would ever surface again.

This summer FOX13 News was given a tour of the facility by the construction company foreman.

With the opening of the new schools and rebuilt homes, businesses and churches coming off the drawing board and taking shape, a five-year plan that's reshaping the landscape once stripped barren of life and vitality signals Smithville former despair has turned the corner and is headed for a vibrant future.

"We learn who we are as a community and a people and that's a very hard thing to learn," Nations said. "That will of the people who becomes the comprehensive will of a community is what gets you back and on your feet."

Smithville is 160 miles southeast of Memphis, Tenn., and 35 miles southeast of Tupelo.

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