I was born in Alabama, and although I didn’t grown up here, I spent every Christmas and summer in Decatur and Florence with family. It’s a place I’ve always been connected to and have always felt a connection with.
When Mamaw passed away in December 2009, I was saddened to realize that I would no longer have a reason to be in Alabama. I didn’t know at the time that I’d be living there within 5 months. As I like to say, I’ve made it full circle. Not only am I back where I started, but I’ve made friends and once again, have family here.
And so, that is why yesterday, April 27th was a day that left me exhausted and heart-broken.
We knew it was coming and we knew it was going to be bad. Even before Wednesday, forecasters were speculating that it could be “historic” or “epic”, but there was no doubt it would be damaging.
It was such an odd day. Randy was out of town on business, and so I had several backup alarms set for getting the kids ready for school. Instead, I woke up to sirens and within minutes, I heard that initial crash of thunder – that moment that I visualize the warm and cold air finally collide. There was no rain or wind at that point.
Within minutes of that collision, the initial storm hit with rain and strong winds. I watched as my Twitter stream filled with reports of power outages and down trees and damage.
Schools were closed due to fallen trees and widespread power outages. Only 20 out of 55 schools in our system had power.
The rest of the afternoon was amazingly nice. Sunny and windy. But it was coming:
Watching it, I felt helpless. I felt awe at the force of nature. I wanted to cry. Cullman had already been beaten up severely, as had many other towns and areas across the state. Seeing this, and knowing what it was doing to the city below it, shook me to my core.
We got into our safe spot as it headed towards Birmingham. Reports were that it could tag the airport, which is about 10 minutes from our home.
As it was bearing towards us, news of the destruction in Tuscaloosa and beyond was pouring in.
In the end, we were untouched, physically. But emotionally, we are hurting for so many. It’s almost unbearable to think about what others woke up to this morning. To imagine what they are facing and coping with. The losses that they have been blown. So much loss of life. The starting over.
I’m fighting with that all-too-common survivors guilt. Vacillating between elation of being ok and anger that others can think about anything else. Worried that the hurts will be forgotten. Like any tragedy, we rally around it and all want to reach out. But within hours, we change the channel and speculate about what the Queen-To-Be will be wearing tomorrow.
And yet, I’m thankful that so many can do that. That they are ok and momentarily carefree. I think we’d all lose our minds if we couldn’t relax our brains from the images.
But let’s not forget Alabama yet. It needs help. It needs prayer.
It’s going to be a long journey back for too many. They shouldn’t have to do it alone.
Governor Bentley pushed back against questions from reporters on Thursday about whether Alabama residents had failed to heed tornado warnings, thus pushing up the casualty toll. “We were very prepared … but it was just the force of the storms,” Bentley said. “When a [large tornado] hits a largely populated area like Tuscaloosa, you cannot move thousands of people in five minutes. When an F4 or F5 tornado hits, there’s not much you can do to change the outcome of that.” – Christian Science Monitor (emphasis mine)
137 Tornadoes Reported in the Deep South on Wednesday *(AL.com)
Alabama Tornadoes: How You Can Help Victims of the April 27, 2011 Deadly Storms (AL.com)
‘We’re Alive’: Survivors Recount Deadly Tornadoes (MSNBC)
April 27, 2011 Alabama Tornado Photo Stream (from ABC 33/40)
Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes (Facebook page set up to help people recover debris found in others yards)
Pray for the Tornado Victims of April 27, 2011 (Facebook page filled with thoughts and resources for helping)
Tornado Season Reaches Peak in “Dixie Alley” (Washington Post)
*Updated: links no longer available/online