Friday, April 27, 2012
The first time I heard it, that dire prediction of extremely severe weather across North Alabama, a gentle April breeze was stirring the newborn leaves and the jasmine by the porch steps was emitting a fragrance that sweetened the house and yard. Nothing to worry about, I thought, the weather people and their hyperbolic predictions were wrong more times than right, especially when it concerned a forecast seven days ahead. I continued potting the new herbs and relished the springtime Wednesday surrounding me.
Exactly one week later, it was a different world. From before dawn to dusk, tornadoes pushed, churned, and killed across Alabama. On April 27, 2011, sixty-two tornadoes touched down in Alabama. Out of the 67 counties, 41 were hit with storms. More than 240 people were dead, real people, not those abstract ones we hear about on the nightly news, people that drove the same roads and shopped at the same stores that I do. There were approximately 2800 reported injuries. Homes were people had eaten and brushed their teeth and gone to bed the night before, 23,500 of them, were damaged or completely destroyed.
We gathered and prayed. We were thankful for food and water and the people who came to help. Some learned to live for several days with no power and Internet. We saw people worship on a concrete slab where their church used to be. We saw ancient trees twisted and lifeless, some with mangled tin and fabric in their branches. We saw seasoned news reporters cry.
Our family was spared the worst of the storms that swept our state one year ago today. We had no injuries except our broken hearts. Now, a year later, we are a different people, a group who knows first-hand what can happen when heavy, angry air masses collide. We all pray that there will never be another day like that one.