TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) — Smithville Attendance Center Principal Chad O'Brian and his students not only celebrated their first play-off game Friday morning, but also the appearances of some special visitors.
Governor Phil Bryant and First Lady Deborah Bryant stopped by the school Friday morning.
"[The] First Lady has been here several times. So, has the governor. They're not guests as much as they are home people, the way we consider them," O'Brian said.
The Governor and the First Lady presented a check for nearly $1.4 million to Monroe County on behalf of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, MEMA.
This money will go to cover some of the costs of the school's new gymnasium that was destroyed in the 2011 tornado.
"We're happy to be able to have home basketball games again. But, as it's been said numerous times, this is more than a basketball gym, this is a storm shelter," O'Brian said.
A storm shelter that can hold about 3,000 people.
Governor Bryant said that helping towns like Smithville is one of the reasons he wanted to become governor.
"I knew I could help so many people, ... and today is a clear example of what we promised, that we would help rebuild Smithville," Governor Bryant said.
Town leaders said the shelter is meant to protect the community.
"We know first hand about how important it is to have a storm shelter on our school campus," Smithville Mayor Gregg Kennedy said.
The shelter can be used by everyone in the town.
Both Mayor Kennedy and O'Brian said this gym is just another step Smithville is making on its road to recovery.
"It was devastation, but at the same time there was hope that we would see days like we're seeing today," O'Brian said.
O'Brian said this new facility has benefited the school in more ways than one.