I remember Cordova.
I grew up near Parrish, but Cordova has a special place in my heart. In the early-mid 1970s, while my mom would be at the laundromat there, I’d hike up Main Street and spend an hour perusing comic books at the drugstore. On occasion, I’d break from routine and visit the library. I do fancy an occasional walk on the wild side.
I must have been around twelve or thirteen when I opened a savings account at the bank, which was then on the corner on Main Street. I was unemployed at the time but somehow I accumulated the grand sum of fourteen dollars and some odd cents. One day I strolled in and withdrew all of it. Maybe I was planning a trip to Vegas or Tunica. I was younger then.
When that laundromat closed, my mom frequented the one up the street owned by Bill Kacharos, beside the Rebel Queen. Sometimes I’d walk across the street to the ball field and watch kids playing softball or watch people diving into the pool. I remember one guy would stand at the diving board edge and pretend to be shot, then fall into the pool. I was easily entertained then.
I was around fifteen and was at this same laundromat when I heard Elvis died. I don’t remember much except feeling stunned that The King was gone and hearing his music all over the radio.
Early one morning in April 2011, a storm blew through Walker County. I didn’t realize how serious it was until I was driving to work in downtown Jasper. Power lines were down everywhere. The front of one 19th Street building had collapsed, burying a parked car in bricks. Debris was strewn all over the streets. When I arrived at work, there had no power or phone service, so I went home.
My older daughter lived in Cordova then. When she didn’t answer her phone, we took off in the car, dodging numerous downed trees and limbs. I had heard Cordova had been hit but I wasn’t prepared for what I saw. Main Street looked like a war zone. The entrance was barricaded with chain link fencing. Beyond that, buildings were now crumbling. The street was littered in glass, bricks, and debris. After searching for a few minutes, we found my daughter safe at her apartment. She had slept through everything.
That afternoon I stood in my front yard watching the sky. I’ve never been afraid of tornadoes, but something about the sunlight’s filtered appearance made me uneasy. The atmosphere had an odd greenish tint. I sensed something was wrong and went inside to watch the weather reports. A few minutes later, I stared at the TV in shock as James Spann reported that Cordova had been hit by a second tornado. I knew then I had probably just seen the effects of the tornado as it passed over us. We were spared but some weren’t so lucky. Their names are engraved on a marker beneath the flag near Cordova City Hall.
One of the first things I noticed about Cordova as a young boy was the signs. Everywhere you looked in town, you’d see a Blue Devil painted on a sign or a building. Even then, it was obvious this town was proud of their school. Proud of their teams. Proud of their community.
You might think being leveled by two tornadoes in the same day would leave a town devastated, shattered, bereft of pride.
Not Cordova. Blue Devil pride is still very much alive there. You can see it in the air, hear it in every conversation. It’s blended with every red and white corpuscle of their blood. If you doubt it, go to a Cordova football game.
You’ll remember Cordova. 78