BILLY McCORD: As I See It
Thanks to those of you who have asked about my health. Thanks to some good doctors and a good hospital I am now doing much better. My blood volume is now what it should be and I hope it stays there. Thank you for your prayers. I appreciate every one that was lifted up for me.
March 16-22 was designated as tornado awareness week by the National Weather Service. Many people never pay this any real attention. I hope the following story will help everyone understand the importance of becoming aware of tips to save lives during severe weather.
November 22, 1973, was just another day in the lives of staff and students in the Southaven school system. I was the person responsible for the junior and senior high school and two elementary schools. My office was in the high school building and I had a principal in each of the elementary schools who took care of the day-to-day operation of the schools.
The weather that day was cloudy and rainy and thunderstorms were in the forecast. No severe weather had been predicted. During the lunch period I had gone to the second level of the building to check on a boy’s rest room, a favorite smoking place. Arriving at the rest room I observed no one was there. Walking over and looking out the window toward the southwest, I observed the lowest and blackest cloud I had ever seen.
A perfectly shaped tornado was already on the ground coming directly at our building. Students were milling around the cafeteria unaware of any approaching danger. I ran as fast as I could and told the secretary to hit the emergency alarm. A half ring was heard and all electricity went out. A very loud explosion sound shook the building. I looked out a window toward the elementary school and saw debris rise into the air. Over 800 students were in the building, three of them mine.
I could not use my truck because of heavy traffic that had stopped. I ran to the elementary building and when I arrived I could see the roof of the building in shambles. I saw an ambulance crew enter the building and I just knew we had fatalities. I answered the phone and confirmed for NBC news in New York that a tornado had hit a school. The phones went dead.
Entering a main hall and wading water well above my ankles, I observed students sitting in the hall heads bowed and hands over heads. I got to a sixth grade group and I heard a familiar voice say, “Daddy I have lost my rain coat.“ Water was pouring on their heads at the time. I looked at our son and said, “Son don’t you worry about your rain coat. We will get another one.“
They were wet but not injured. One child suffered a broken leg when a piece of the roof fell on him but no one else was injured.
Quick action on the part of the principal and teachers without doubt saved lives. They were prepared and we should be. Every home needs a plan to get to the safest place in the event a tornado approaches. Every school needs a well rehearsed plan of action in the event a storm approaches with students and teachers present. Notice I said a rehearsed plan. Otherwise the plan will not be successful.
Billy McCord is a retired school administrator in DeSoto County. He represents District 3 on the School Board and presently is the President of the board. McCord is Pastor of Shady Grove United Methodist Church in Calhoun County.
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