Area funeral homes reflect back on 2011 Smithville tornado

AMORY, Miss. (WCBI) – It’s been almost one week since an EF 4 tornado claimed the lives of 23 people in Lee County, Alabama.

The disaster is one that many here in Mississippi can relate to.

Smithville knows all too well the pain and sorrow that comes with severe weather and tornadoes.

Those in the funeral industry say it takes the entire community to come back after a storm.

Robert Pickle is the Manager and funeral director at E. E. Pickle Funeral Home in Amory, and he’s all too familiar with the subject of grief.

He said the recent disaster in Lee County, Alabama reminds him of the Smithville tornado in 2011.

“We don’t understand, we know God’s in control. But it takes a toll. Just because you don’t expect it,” said Pickle.

A major disaster puts strains on all types of essential services, especially in small towns. Funeral homes can find themselves dealing with an already difficult job in an almost impossible time frame.

“Everybody works together. That’s the beauty of it. We had folks that called right away and said, how can we help you?” said Pickle.

“When the tornado hit Smithville, there were several of us that went to Smithville and offered our services there. They came from everywhere quite frankly,” said Holland Funeral Home owner Steve Holland.

Area funeral homes say in times like these they don’t see each other as competitors.

“We’re here to help each other. Even if it’s our competitor, we care not. And that’s the way it should be,” said Holland.

“There were either three or four couples who died. So we did a double service. It’s just one service charge instead of two. That’s just a way of giving back because it’s totally unexpected and it’s just the right thing to do,” said Pickle.

“It’s just not a time to worry about money. It’s a disaster, so we do what we have to do, but FEMA takes care of some of that, believe it or not. There’s all kinds of ways of dealing with it… We come to each other’s rescue in everything from caskets to cars to embalming services, preparation, anything that’s needed to carry on those funerals,” said Holland.

Industry insiders say it takes the entire community coming together as one to move on after tragedy strikes.

“Sometimes small towns get knocked, but when you have something major, like a tornado, everybody rallies together,” said Pickle.

The 2011 Smithville tornado also resulted in 23 deaths.

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