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New ‘Hardware’ May Trigger Airport Alarm System

by Charles Cooper

Hello everyone, I hope you are having a good week. First, I’d like to give you a personal update.

I entered surgery at Baptist East-Memphis last Monday, March 3, for a hip replacement. As usual on such occasions, I reported in at 6 a.m. and the surgery began at 11 a.m. It was about a four hour procedure and, needless to say, I was pretty much out of it for the rest of the day.

They call the device I now have as “hardware,” so I’ll probably set off the alarms at the airport if I decide to fly again. The important thing is, for the first time in two years, I’m free of pain. I got home Friday afternoon and will begin out-patient therapy Tuesday.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their emails, cards and phone calls. A special thanks to Jim and Alice Allen, Jim and Jo Peacock, and Betty Shearer for putting me on their prayer list – I’m sure there were others I don’t know about and I thank you all.

Since there has been interest in the O’Tuckalofa tornado, I have decided to send a copy of a column I had written before but decided I felt well enough to do a new one, so here goes.

It was a muggy overcast day on March 16, 1942, and I was attending school at Camp Ground. I remember that as each school bus arrived, the students who rode that particular bus were excused to load up and go home.

My driver was Paul Reynolds and we dropped off students until we reached the Palestine community and then the worst rainstorm I had ever seen came down. Mr. Reynolds parked the bus under a large white oak tree in front of the Palestine church.     

As I recall, the only ones left  on the bus were the Higgins’ kids, John Henry Ashford and myself. Even in the downpour we could look out the back window and see a black cloud and a copper band under it. We had no radio in the bus so we didn’t know what was going on.

Back at O’Tuckalofa school, Principal Ferrell paced the floor until the last bus was loaded and on its way. He then calmly took one of his twin baby girls in his arms and Mrs. Ferrell took the other, and they sat down to ride out the storm.

When it was over Mr. Ferrell and the baby girl he was holding were dead and Mrs. Ferrell and the other were alive. Forrest Barber had a store which was blown away and Mrs. Barber was critically injured. She recovered and Mr. Barber went on to become Sheriff in later years and his daughters became well known educators and authors.     

Mr. Herman Wright, a good friend of our family, was on his way home driving a team of horses. He saw the funnel and laid down in a ditch. When he got up one horse was dead and the other un-hurt. Mrs. Wright and five children went in a small storm cellar hardly high enough for two and survived to come out to bare ground where the house had been.

The wounded were brought into Water Valley until Dr. George’s hospital was full. Dr. George and Dr. Ramey worked on the victims and the rest were sent to the old gym where the city hall is now.

Dr. Cooper, Dr. French and Dr. Leo attended the injured here, aided by townspeople volunteers.

Ole Miss sent medical students to assist the doctors. Even then there was an overflow that was sent on to Memphis. We visited the area the next day and I can only describe it as looking like the newsreel shots of battlefields we were getting at the movies.

I hope that you young people that have no first hand knowledge of this disaster will get an idea of what it was like back then.

The O’Tuckalofa students were divided up with Camp Ground and Water Valley for the balance of the school year, and after that they were part of the Water Valley system.

Again it’s great to have the operation behind me and I hope to be working on a limited basis by the first of April. Let me hear from you as my email address is still or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, Tn 38101 and have a great week.

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