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A Year and Six Months (+2 days) After Tuscaloosa’s April 27th Tornado

I can remember driving to work the morning of April 27, 2011.  I could barely see 2 feet in front my car and the rain pelted my windshield.  The wind drove the rain in blanket after blanket as lightning flashed in every corner of the sky.

I was afraid– deathly afraid to be exact. I’d left my sleeping newborn, who’d been released from the hospital a month prior, with my mom and mentally prepared myself to contact various weather services and government and civic organizations to provide the most up-to-date information on weather conditions. We’d been receiving warnings from meteorologist James Spann for about a week before the weather actually hit.

I came to work and prepared my news casts, completely oblivious to the fact that as I’d driven in to work a tornado was making its way through that dark, rain-filled sky.  It wasn’t until later in the day that I learned that one of my college suitemates had significant damage to her home that morning. I can remember sharing in her mixture of sadness about the state of her home and joy about her family’s safety and wholeness.

As the day went on, we received continued warnings about harsher weather that was to come later. Spann expressed the severity of the upcoming storm with great urgency. Children were released from schools so as to not be stranded should the weather become as inclement as predicted.

HARSH it was! The tornado that ripped through Tuscaloosa that day took dozens of lives, flattened and damaged hundreds of structures, and left many homeless and unemployed. In fact, we’re still in the rebuilding process; and while the landscape is changing, the tornado left an indelible mark that will not soon be forgotten.

That event alone made our communities not only pull together to help each other, but it made us empathetic when disaster struck other areas across the country. Not quite a month later, another tornado almost completely decimated Joplin, Missouri.  And just like volunteers from Joplin had come to help in Tuscaloosa, unbeknownst to them that they’d face the same devastation not even a month later, members of our community then returned the favor and headed to Joplin.

Now, a year and a half almost to the day that the fateful tornado changed our city, we watch as the East Coast prepares for not only the landfall of Hurricane Sandy but also the possibility of Sandy merging with other storms to form what is being called a “Frankenstorm.”  There are already reports of cities being evacuated as threats of 11-foot walls of water come in.  Schools have been closed, and transit systems shut down.

The country is watching as residents and businesses on the East Coast make preparation for the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and I get the eerie feeling of role reversal.  When it was us taking cover, the rest of the country watched and prayed.  And now, I find myself glued to the news and praying continuously for those in direct line of the storm. Disaster can strike anywhere and at any time.  All warnings should be taken seriously because although conditions can change and not be as bad as predicted, storms can always not only maintain strength but also get stronger.  It’s better to be safe than sorry; and it’s up to us to pray for those that prayed for us when we were the ones in need.

 

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