This week I wanted to take a moment and remember the tornadoes that ravaged the South, especially my hometown in Alabama, last year. I remember that fateful day like it was yesterday. Who would have thought on April 27, 2011, so many lives would change? I developed more of an appreciation for life and my fellow man. I am so blessed by God to live where your neighbor will lend a helping hand or give you a hug when you need it.
On the morning of the 27th of April at 5:30AM, our weather alert went off. A tornado warning went out for south of our county. Being unaware that a tornado had hit the county. I was taking the advance warnings from our meteorologist days before seriously. The earlier prediction was that the really bad storms would not hit our state until later that afternoon. It was a school day and I figured that Katie would go on to class and I could pick her up by 11AM or noon for the day. The weather had a different idea. Not sure what to do, I had to take my children's safety to account. I decided to pack up the car and head to my in-laws. I brought extra clothes and Katie's backpack in case her school would still have class. It wasn't long after getting settled at my in-laws before I received a call from school, stating that they would close that day due to weather.
My father-in-law and I stayed glued to the television, watching the tracks of tornadoes ripping across the state. It was so weird how the mid-afternoon tornadoes would take the same path as the morning tornadoes. Thankfully, my children were safe and playing in the next room. We actually saw the storm's rage that disfigured our home town on the news. When it finally went on it's way, it left all of us in the dark and left so many people homeless. The storms lasted all day and into the night. We stayed with my in-laws that night.
The next day, Doug, his dad and I loaded up and headed to Birmingham to pick up a couple of generators. I took my camera, being the photographer I am. I tried not to cross a line out of respect for others. There were people on the morning news, upset because people were coming down their streets, taking pictures of the disaster. These poor people just lost everything in a blink of an eye. I didn't want to photograph someone else's crisis, but photograph this moment to remember and celebrate God's grace on our life.
We were without power for three days, but were thankful for the generators. When the city was ready for volunteers, my sister and I helped out one day. The volunteers were pouring out of the woodwork. It's great when you have to turn away volunteers because there are so many. Trust me, they came back the next day. The volunteers were divided up into groups. Susan and I were able to stay together, thankfully. We worked on the streets that were one of the worst hit areas, cleaning up debris. We had to make it to where the homeowners could get a vehicle in the driveways or close enough to the house, so they can get their belongings. The tree cutters would cut the trees off their houses, to make sure it might be safe enough to get in the house. The rest of us moved the wood to the edge of the streets for FEMA to easily pick up the debris to dispose of it. At one house, Susan found dental X-rays among all the trash. We asked the homeowner if it was her or her husband's and she had no idea who's it was. The first house, we began working at had a boat trailer leaning up against the house. The homeowner said that it was not her trailer and didn't know where it came from. Just amazing. We were instructed before going out that if the homeowners came out of their house and just wanted to talk that it was alright to talk with them. They just had their world turned upside down and needed some normalcy. So many homes were wiped completely off the map.
A view of a neighborhood in the Pleasant Grove area, looks like a pile of garbage.
This was the typical view for all residents when the city officials gave the clear for everyone to travel downtown. Signs bent like they were made out of aluminum foil. Power lines on the ground because either trees were laying on them or the power poles were snapped like toothpicks.
Roofs ripped off and windows blown out. Churches either missing completely or disfigured.
When in-state and out-of-state rescue units began showing up to help restore power, passing out water and ice, etc. It was very emotional. In fact the day after the storms and we were headed to Birmingham for the generators, we met power company trucks from other states. I immediately got choked up and began to cry.
This was the scene at most gas pumps.
Charity groups passing out ice, water and other necessities.
I really hope I'm not speaking too soon, but God deserves the praises. My friend, Richard, got a report from his doctors regarding his cancer. From what I understand, he was cut open. I guess kind of like exploratory surgery to see they see any cancer. None were found. He was sent to get ready for a bone marrow transplant because cancer was found growing in his body again. This time, when they went looking for the cancer and getting prepared for the bone marrow transplant, they found NOTHING. The doctors will keep a watch on him, but as of right now a bone marrow transplant will not be needed. WHOO HOO! GOD IS SO GREAT! We are all so thankful to him for answering Richard's and our prayers. Meanwhile, Richard is still losing weight. Weight, he can not afford to lose. His appetite just hasn't made a come back yet. Please remember continue to remember him. Thank you!