GUIZERIX: Rolling Fork is a town of Survivors

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

I put my daughter to bed at 8 p.m. this past Friday night. By 8:30 p.m., Rolling Fork as we knew it was gone.

After months of reporting on the people in and around this town and coming to love the South Delta and its people, my heart broke with every news update. Reaching out to people featured in the “Faces of the Floods” series to check on them, I breathed a sigh of relief every time one of them told me they were okay.

Over the next day, one thought was on my mind: These people have fought for nearly 100 years to protect their way of life and the right to live on this land. And everything they’ve fought for was quite literally ripped from them in an instant.

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I keep thinking in that vein as reports of injuries and casualties came in. Every Facebook status of someone begging for help, for a neighbor to check on their loved ones, or worse, confirming their missing loved one had gone to Heaven, drove further that sense of despair.

I felt guilty that I was someone who could step away from the disaster while others had to suffer in it.

It wasn’t until Monday evening that the heartbreak for our neighbors began to make way for a new emotion. Thanks to South Delta native Victoria Darden Garland, a Polaris Ranger and a few kind folks willing to speak to me, I was able to travel up to Rolling Fork and see the situation firsthand.

Pictures don’t do it justice. A scrapyard sits on each side of U.S. 61, with mangled piles of debris piled so high they’d dwarf a full-grown man. At one point, that scrapyard was homes, businesses and the heart of Rolling Fork commerce.

Riding through side streets with my escort, seeing cars not-so-delicately placed atop houses, seeing dog-tired people look up from their shovels and wipe their brows as they sifted through rubble for remaining signs of life was almost too much to stomach.

But in speaking to the people there in the thick of it, I realized it wasn’t pity that I felt. It wasn’t despair. That gave way to something far greater: A shared strength and a sliver of hope that they’ll get through this.

It won’t be easy, but Rolling Fork is still there through the people working to save it.

I spoke to around a dozen people over the course of Monday afternoon, and one thing I know for sure is, not one of them is a victim. They are survivors.