Being a student here at the University of Alabama when the tornadoes came through Tuscaloosa, I remember everything that happened that day, and probably will for the rest of my life. To remember that day and to track Tuscaloosa’s progress back to prominence in the state of Alabama, I have started this new tab of BrettAtBama, not only covering the progress of Tuscaloosa but also remembering what not only the people of Tuscaloosa, but everyone that loves the University of Alabama like I do went through. On this page, my experience on that day and the days that followed it will always be just below the line below, with other content and recovery and such being placed underneath it. So read my story of those days, then continue scrolling down and see what has happened more recently.
T-Town, Never Down.
I woke up that morning just as I normally do, getting ready for my classes for that day. Wednesdays that semester were not fun for me. I had five classes stretching from 9 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. But, I just went through it all like always, class to class to class, only focused on class (and maybe the next home baseball game). I knew that there were some pretty bad storms heading our way, but I didn’t think much of it. One of my professors even took time out of his lecture (a rarity for this man) and told us that these storms were very serious and that we needed to be extremely careful that night.
Fast forwarding to the chaos, I was in my final class of the day, an American history class taught by Chuck Clark, who to this day is my favorite professor here at the University. Everyone in the class was watching the weather. Everyone had a laptop or a smart phone out, constantly checking it. Before class started, the professor reminded us that the building we were in, ten Hoor, was built as the campus bomb shelter and that if anything were to happen, we would be safe here. But when the campus-wide email saying that classes were cancelled for the day and the tornado sirens started going off, I decided to just make the quick walk back to my dorm.
I did just that, getting back and seeing my roommate Charley a little out of it. He was telling me, “Dude, this is bad.” Charley lived in north Alabama for a very long time and knew what kind of damage tornadoes could do. But it wasn’t confirmed that this storm was producing tornadoes, so I still wasn’t too worried. I even went with a friend from down the hall to get dinner to-go at the closest dining hall, then returned. While in the dining hall, it started raining. Badly. Being from Gulf Shores, Alabama, a beach town prone to hurricanes, I was used to seeing hard rains in hurricanes. And let me say this, that rain rivaled hurricanes.
I was a little more cautious of the storms after that, but I didn’t begin to really worry until I was in that same friend’s room after dinner. This shows you how worried I was, because everyone else was in the hallway for safety. I was looking out the window while the others were watching TV, and in the distance I could see an Alabama flag on the top of a construction crane. It was whipping around in circles. Fast. That was my sign. I told everyone in the room to get into the hallway and that was where we stayed for a while.
There were some of our dormmates that were brave enough to look out the door every now and then. They would report back, “It’s raining hard out there,” or, “It’s really windy,” for a while. They did this several times, almost like clock work. And then, “Oh my God! That thing is huge! Holy s!!!” That ‘thing’ was the tornado that would soon destroy so much of Tuscaloosa.
The aftermath was just as bad as every photo and flyover video you have ever seen, and maybe worse. The week that followed was rough, at the very least. I saw my friends go back to their respective hometowns in such a rushed and unceremonious manner. I was seeing grown men and women with full families eating at the on-campus dining halls, nothing more than a glorified cafeteria, because that was the only place they could get a decent meal.
It was a series of events that I won’t forget, as long as I live. And I had it easy. I didn’t know anyone that was hurt or even worse, killed. I didn’t have family living here in Tuscaloosa to worry about. But, through this page on brettatbama.wordpress.com, I want to chronicle Tuscaloosa’s recovery from this disaster. We Are Tuscaloosa. T-Town Never Down.
6 months later: The Crimson White, where I am a proud Senior Sports Reporter, dedicated an entire issue to the recovery of Tuscaloosa from the April 27th disaster. Here are some pictures of it:
Here is a link to the CW article on Ashley Harrison, long snapper Carson Tinker’s girlfriend, who was killed in the storms of that day: http://cw.ua.edu/2011/10/26/ashley-harrison/