Returning to Oxford meant returning to a community I’ve loved since college

Published 6:00 am Sunday, August 21, 2016

The last time I was a newspaper editor in this town was seven years ago at The Daily Mississippian. I quickly adapted to the cycles of breaking news in Oxford, which back then were neatly organized by semesters and football seasons and holiday breaks.

Admittedly, I didn’t expect much, if any, news to break this week outside of Sam Kendricks’ run for an Olympic medal and the annual chaos of move-in weekend.

Then last Sunday happened, and a text from a close friend thrust me into this job a day early.

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“My cousin was in a plane crash today.”

You know the rest.

I arrived at the newsroom early the next morning, wondering how to balance my first day on the job with our pressing need to tell this story — the entire story — of how the community would respond to such an unthinkable tragedy.

I rediscovered the Oxford I knew and had known since my first days as a freshman in 2004. The same Oxford I returned to a handful of weekends every year since I graduated because, while it might not be the center of the universe, it’s been the center of mine for a long time.

I saw people weep for orphaned children they didn’t know. I listened closely, both in person and online, to ongoing conversations about loss, grief and the power of a community to help these severed families.

I saw a community — our community — brought together by mourning, healing and an unwavering commitment to do everything possible to help the families of those lost.

Returning to Oxford as more than a visitor was something I hoped I’d be able to do in my lifetime, but didn’t expect to happen so soon. When this opportunity arose, I saw a chance to work with a great staff in a city I loved to produce powerful, meaningful community journalism at the EAGLE.

And it was an offer I couldn’t pass up.

As much as I loved my time at Ole Miss, the Oxford I fell in love with so many years ago had less to do with football games and tailgates and more to do with the people who planted their lives here to pour themselves into the community.

All of that revealed itself to me this week, confirming what I already knew when I made the choice to plant my life here, as well.

I’m proud to live in and serve a community defined by strength, resilience and compassion.

Oxford mourns. Oxford heals.

Oxford endures.

Alex Mcdaniel is Editor of the Oxford EAGLE. She can be reached at