Weekly Columns

Arkansas Strong

Apr 10 2023

It's difficult to see our neighbors suffer the devastating consequences of Mother Nature. I’ve seen firsthand how residents from all across the state are stepping up to help family, friends and strangers in need. A common question from Arkansans since deadly tornadoes tore through the Natural State claiming five lives and injuring dozens of others, damaging property and testing our resilience has been: how can I help?

While Arkansans are familiar with this type of destruction, it never gets easier. Recovery is a long and grueling process, yet difficult times often bring out the best in people. We are thankful for our first responders, utility workers and nonprofits that have been working around the clock to help restore services and support families even as they were in the path of danger. 

Moments before the tornado in Wynne, one homeowner went door-to-door urging his neighbors to seek protection in his basement. He’s being hailed as a hero for his actions that safeguarded 15 people and leveled the home of one family seeking shelter. 

Firefighters at Little Rock’s Station 9 took cover as the tornado passed overhead and heavily damaged the firehouse. As soon as the danger diminished, they immediately grabbed their gear and went to work assisting nearby residents. 

It’s heartbreaking to see the pain so many Arkansans are experiencing. The homes where parents have raised their children, businesses that entrepreneurs fought to make successful and community parks that served as a backdrop to milestone moments in life have been severely damaged. There is a lot of despair, but hope is alive.

I’m inspired by the stories of citizens desiring to support their community. Donations have poured in from across the state and countless people have answered the call to help by volunteering with cleanup efforts. I’ve heard of folks bringing their tools to neighborhoods to cut downed trees and clear debris so the roads are drivable. In Wynne, current and formers students have descended on the high school to help engineers better access the damage.

There are certainly countless ways to get involved and Arkansans of all ages are offering their support. The all-hands-on-deck efforts demonstrate how many people are eager to help in these unimaginable circumstances. 

I have been in contact with federal authorities so we can deliver support these communities need to rebuild. We’ve come together to respond to the immediate needs. In recent days, President Biden quickly approved Governor Sanders’s request for a federal disaster declaration and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell visited Arkansas to assess the damage and meet with state and local officials who are coordinating cleanup efforts. The governor launched a comprehensive website for storm recovery resources that includes information on federal and state assistance and opportunities for volunteers.

Arkansas is united to help families, businesses and communities recover. There are difficult days ahead, but we are rising to meet the challenge. The vision to build back stronger is clear, and there is no shortage of inspiring examples of Arkansans taking action to make it happen.