April 27th, 2011. 

      My room mate had woke me up at around 6 a.m. because a severe wind and thunderstorm was going on. I heard it, but it was integrating into my dreams and not much else. He had turned on the news and I think he stayed up from that point on. I went back to bed. Later on in the day, I was aware that all the stop lights on highway 280 were out and I had heard sirens through out the day. I did not know there was a tornado watch and if I had, I may not have thought much about it. There are always tornado watches and in Alabama, they may touch down in some areas but they are known to just “blow over”. Work had told me to go ahead and take the day off, because it was not worth fighting the traffic to get there. That was the tennis shop, and no one was playing tennis because another storm was coming in. I was watching Ally Mcbeal, and a friend and neighbor from work came over and said “you need to turn on the news”. 
   From that moment on, what happened to me and the rest of Alabama is probably only akin to the people of Louisiana in the time of Katrina. James Spann had his sleeves rolled up and was showing the traffic cams, begging people to get off the road. His warning was “I know you are listening thinking this Alabama, it will just pass like all the rest of them, but this is not like the rest of them”. The picture on the screen was not even a funnel, it looked like a wall and it was the most frightening thing we had ever seen. In a separate screen, there were pictures of Tuscaloosa-only a couple of hours away. 

  The last time I sat in front of a tv feeling helpless and silent was during 9/11. My brother was texting me, because he couldn’t call. He was in his car listening to the radio because the power was out. He was an hour and half south of me. Suddenly friends from college all over the country were texting me or messaging me…I was in Birmingham , Alabama..where at the moment a historical tornado was occurring. I couldn’t get in touch with my father, so I got on face book (on my phone) and found a former co worker from my hometown’s number. He lived up the road from my father, and I asked hoe things were. As far as he knew at the time there were no casualties but the power was out.  Small towns…people look out for each other.

   At the end of the day, my room mate came home, the storm was over. They had been in the safest place. There is deep basements at work. He wanted to go out..he had watched the mayhem on the computer and various tvs all day. We went to a grill where the aftermath was being shown on tv. He was talking about it but my mind was everywhere else. I was still texting my brother when his phone would allow and no one had heard from our father, or other family in the small that speckle Northeast Alabama. My mind went to friends in Auburn, hours away and Hayden just miles away. I texted and checked on people just as I had been checked on. Everyone I contacted was fine.

   The world remembers Tuscaloosa. But in the towns I am from it, it was just as bad. It never occured to me until this past month that I had never really talked about it. My brother and I talked for two hours last week remembering the event. How we felt, the after effects. Where we were and what we were doing. I remember that Prince William and Kate Middelton were getting married either the same day or the next day. I remember little geeks on Tumblr slamming all who were interested in that event, because look at what is going on in the heart of the country…I remember thinking those tumblr teens must feel important making their little post-heck they aren’t here what do they know about it? Let the Prince and his Princess get married and be merry, and anyone interested in it. I remember opening my wordpress and staring at it. I couldn’t write, I didn’t even know how I felt yet. It was too personal, yet I felt like a loser because I was not DOING something. I emailed my Pastor, who I knew would be “in the field” helping any way he could and told him I would like to help. He said he would contact me if something came up, but nothing ever did. I was in Birmingham. So close to the chaos yet so far away. I finally heard from my dad, who had many trees down and how none of them hit that house, or the house was even still standing still stands in my memory as a miracle.

    The first time I visited home and the little town my brother worked in was sobering. Everything was clear….finally it hit me, all the trees were gone and the sky was visible. Some of the staple buildings were gone. Many actually. To this day there is an eerie feeling driving through there, like something is missing and even after all this time, after listing the building that were gone you still have missed one. In the conversation with my brother, remembering that day I learned things that may have been said in that year but forgotten in the heat of the battle. The national guard had its head quarters right next to the store he works at. The Secretary of State visited. The President was supposed to, it was news around the area, but he did not. He flew over and everyone seen it. It became commonplace seeing the uniforms and looking at each other with a zoned out asleep look that only those who have lost or witnessed loss understand. My pastor and my brother visited to help clean up in various areas but were unable to because of insurance claim back ups. Every single person in Rainsville Alabama has lost someone or lost homes. Bodies were found and young men who went to various areas to help clean up have still not gotten over it. 
   Miles away in Pisgah/Flat Rock area, family on my mothers side were lost as well. My aunt was in her basement and the basement caved in. A child also in the basement dug them out. To this day certain sounds give her flashbacks of that horrific day. While that information was being given to me, in Birmingham, I volunteered at the Salvation Army sorting through the record breaking donations that were made. 
   Two years later, I blog about it. I blog about it because, the two months of April since 2011 people get tense around the 27th. Last year there was a tornado watch and James Spann was easing people’s mind that it would  not be another “April 27th” though it WAS a significant tornado. Tomorrow it is supposed to rain. A week or so ago, I was talking to a newer manager from Michigan. She was not in Alabama in 2011.  She said “that hit Tuscaloosa right? I tried to explain, but you just had to be there. There is no explaining. For once I truly empathize with people in New York and people in New Orleans. Yeah….the rest of you watched ot on tv and sent help or donations. But you weren’t here. There is nothing like a tragedy so close missing you but hitting people you know-it is a so close yet so far feeling. A feeling of relief that you are alive, but feeling guilt as well because you hurt with them. People back home seemed to think I missed it, yet on the other side of me was Tuscaloosa-I’m calling people and cant get in touch with them. I tried to help yet couldn’t. All I could do was watch, then look at it all for the next year. I couldn’t write or take pictures…who would want to do that to their fellow man? 
  April 27th in the south. It is our Katrina and what 9/11 is to New York and those who lost and are still recovering. 

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