Today in Tuscaloosa, and all across the land, many will be remembering this day last year. On April 27th, 2011 the largest tornado outbreak ever recorded swept across the south. In total, 208 tornadoes touched down in our nation that day. Our great state lost 239 people, 43 of those in Tuscaloosa alone. I will always remember where I was that day. Frightened by the weather, we closed our offices early and headed home. I gathered my family in our basement and we all sat around the TV waiting to see or hear what was going on. A clear shot from a news camera gave us one of the more shocking things I have ever seen. We watched a tornado that spanned miles wide heading straight for the University of Alabama campus. We all watched in horror as it barely missed the stadium, but seemed to take out everything around it. Our hearts just sank; we knew there would be devastation from this monster storm. We continued to watch as it made its way to Birmingham and closer to our own home. We silently prayed it would spare us and luckily it did.
But for those who were spared, there was plenty left to do. My husband and son went to try to help with clean up, only to be turned away because people were stealing and the affected areas were mass chaos. It took several days for things to settle down and people could really get to work to see what was left, even who was left. I remember watching a touching video from a UA student as he described his experience. He was injured, just walking around trying to find other people. Another, Carson Tinker, who happens to be the long snapper (the guy that takes center and hikes the football up during field goals and extra points attempts) for the National Champs, was injured and looking for his girlfriend. She had been huddled in the closet of his house with him at the time, but as they were both ripped away from the closet along with his roommates, they had become separated. Carson woke up in a field and he searched for Ashley, but to no avail. His roommates found him but there was still no sign of Ashley. They later found out that Ashley became one of the statistics. So tragic that it touched the hearts of all UA athletes and students. Those athletes and students played a key role in the cleaning up and rebuilding of their school and community.
Coming together as a community to help each other out is what is so great about the Crimson Tide Family. While football will always be in our hearts, helping others is just a way of life for us.