Remembering April 27, 2011
I've noticed that the older I get, the more emotional I become. Sometimes, I think it's the fact that having a child has caused me to slow down and better appreciate the small things in life. As my pastor has been teaching a series on relationships (and an AWESOME series it is), today I am reminded of a relationship that ended 4 years ago.
Like most people in Tuscaloosa and other areas that were devastated by tornadoes on April 27, 2011, there hasn't been a year yet where this date (and days leading up to it) hasn't caused a sense of grief for me. I relive the day's events in my mind several times through the day, beginning with 3:30am.
I'd just finished feeding my newborn, who'd come home from the hospital almost a month before. I was staying with my mom, who'd also come home from the hospital for a second hip replacement almost a month before. I'd used half of my maternity leave while my daughter was in the hospital and saved the other half for when she came home. So, I was working half days. After feeding my daughter and putting her in the room with my mom, I got dressed and drove to work in the dark, through torrential rain! I could barely see in front of me. It wasn't until I got to work that I realized we were under a tornado warning. I went down the hall and talked to my buddy, Brother A, and told him that we might have to take cover and that I'd come and get him if that was the case. We did end up taking cover for a little while until the weather cleared. That tornado destroyed many structures in the Coaling area.
As the day wore on and more weather warnings came, I started making contact with my family, making sure everybody had the necessary supplies just in case the weather turned out as bad as the forecast. We made sure to charge all phones, expecting a loss of electricity. Sure enough, we lost cable first. Electricity was next to go. Luckily, with the use of weather radios, we were able to keep up with the track of the storm.
As the atmosphere eased and everything subsided, people started to leave their homes to view the damage and to try to make contact with loved ones. We were told that numerous communities were destroyed or severely damaged, including one where my cousins lived. It was hours before anyone made contact with them, but they were okay. Because cell towers were overwhelmed, it wasn't until the next day or so that I received the news that one of my good friends had died in the tornado.
It's weird how I'd covered devastating news for years, but it was always a numbers game until it affected my loved ones.
"Tornadoes swept through (city), snapping power lines and destroying homes. (Number) lives were lost."
"Straight-line winds caused the roofs of numerous homes to be damaged."
However, in the days after April 27, 2011, it was more like, "You know Kevin was killed in the tornado, right?" "We still can't find my dad," and "We're going over to put a tarp on Jeremie and Sharetta's roof." To actually know people whose lives were directly affected was surreal. It was like living a movie. Yet, here we are four years later, with a city that's on the constant path to recovery and renewal, a greater sense of community, and increased awareness of how quickly lives can be changed.