I’m from Mississippi. I was born and raised in the Mississippi Delta (“The Most Southern Place on Earth” as in, characteristically Deep South) and went to one of the best public high schools in the US in Columbus before heading to Vermont for college (I went to Bennington, for the record).
The state is constantly glossed over in so many ways. I get it has a low population, little industry, and is stuck in 1950. But as another hurricane comes to shore (Gordon), I’m thinking about my home state tonight.
Just wanted to share a few thoughts.
The Mississippi weather I know
Total flyover state. It’s one of (if not the) poorest and least educated states and leads for most obese, with high rates of heart disease and diabetes. So… a bunch of poor, fat, uneducated people – which of course, is the stereotype anyway.
It’s also been getting scraped with violent weather as Tornado Alley shifts east (some people call it Dixie Alley) and more hurricanes pulverize its shores to literal shreds.
I was in Memphis on the night Katrina hit. And didn’t sleep at all because the air felt so sickeningly bad – just stayed up watching The Weather Channel. Then watched all the images filter in.
Everyone focused on New Orleans, of course. But the storm actually made landfall in Mississippi. And the physical damage along the Mississippi coast was far worse than what happened in New Orleans.
I’ll never forget driving through the state during the weeks after – so many trees turned over and roads blocked for repairs. Things that were there one day were gone the next – homes, businesses, land formations. It was chaos.
I also remember the sky turning literally purple a couple of times – and hearing the dead calm give way to train whistle sounds as tornados formed. Nothing will freeze your blood faster (well, except maybe hearing a rattlesnake and then seeing your foot next to it).
One summer, a couple of my high school’s buildings were simply swept away. There one minute, and then completely gone, right down to the studs in the ground.
A new hurricane, but old problems
I tend to watch the weather there because all of my family lives scattered around the area. So of course, with a new hurricane making landfall tonight, I’m hyper aware of what’s going on.
We rarely get national coverage.
Um… you mean the entire Gulf Coast of Mississippi?!? 🤦🏻♂️ Why do we NEVER get the same coverage for weather-related events, even when our state absorbs all the damage??? https://t.co/xjjlf4pr13
— Harlan Vaughn (@harlanvaughn) September 4, 2018
We’re “the area between New Orleans and Mobile” for hurricane coverage. The hurricane is beelining to Mississippi, but might graze New Orleans or Mobile.
I know it’s a “small” hurricane – but that hurricane is targeting my home state.
I’m obviously biased. It just seems, time after time, no one wants to mention our state by name. It’s a niche topic – I just wish the focus of stories would shift when we’re obviously the target.
And I bet if it were tracking to Louisiana or Alabama, it would be trending on Twitter right now, with only a few hours left before landfall.
Mississippians are an amazing bunch
You might not know these people were all born in Mississippi:
- Faith Hill
- Tennessee Williams
- Elvis Presley
- Parker Posey
- Britney Spears
- Morgan Freeman
- John Grisham
- And more musicians than you could ever realize (Clarksdale is the home of the blues, where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil at the intersection of Highways 49 and 61!)
The cultural contributions of Mississippians is immeasurable. And obviously, it has a complicated place in US history.
You’ll probably never go there
And that’s OK. They don’t make it easy to visit. There aren’t any major airports. And if you really wanted to go, you’d have to drive a LOT to get to your destination.
Plus, flights are expensive – and there’s not much to do. It’s not even a particularly beautiful place. There aren’t many cultural happenings – no plays or big concerts, no epicenter of… anything, really.
We are forever driving to Little Rock, or Memphis, or New Orleans, or Birmingham when we want to experience a “big city.”
With costs and time considered, you could visit pretty much anywhere else for the same price (or cheaper!) and spend more time doing cool stuff. So yeah, you should probably do that. But it means you’ll probably never visit my home state. Not that I blame ya – just an observation more than anything.
When I mention I’m from there, nearly everyone says, “I’ve been through there.”
“Did you stop?”
“No… well, for gas.”
But I get it – they’ve kinda set it up that way: to fly over or drive through. It’s got that in common with a lot of middle America.
Still, Mississippi will never have a cool tech tub like Des Moines, a St. Louis or Kansas City like Missouri, or a happening cosmopolitan city like Tennessee with Nashville (and to some degree Memphis and Knoxville). We certainly don’t have a draw like New Orleans or Atlanta. And even Illinois has Chicago and Wisconsin has Milwaukee.
It’s sad in a way, but comforting in another. To know it will likely stay just as it is for a long time coming. But yeah, a travel destination it ain’t. (Yet?)
Mississippi is one of those places that exists outside of time and influence. It’s a strange place. Rural, reliably red, religious.
We never get coverage for much of anything except how backwards, dumb, or fat we are. But there’s a lot of good there – and a lot of good people. I’m thinking of my home state as they prepare to get battered by yet another storm. Seems like there have been so many by now, even in my lifetime.
Tonight I’m thinking of home. My home state is a place with its own unique set of issues. But it’s given me a family and a personal history. I have a huge soft spot for the place.
Most people will never experience it. Admittedly, there’s not much to see or do unless you have a good reason to be there. I’m still sad to see them deal with so much violent weather and so little coverage of it.
Anyway, I’m thinking of Mississippi this evening and will follow the hurricane coverage as it happens. I hate to see places I know get ripped away. I just hope it passes quickly.
Ah man, what a place. Have you been there? Share your memories, impressions!* If you liked this post, consider signing up to receive free blog posts in an RSS reader and you’ll never miss an update!
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