- CRITTER TALK
As those of you who read my writing know I usually have no problem writing about or with emotion. This is a different time and I am in a different place and I am hoping that trying to express what I am feeling, or not feeling will bring me out of this catatonic state which grips me at the present time. About two weeks ago Collin Hinds wrote a really good piece entitled “This Too Will Pass” (MMA, April, 15, 2011) about daily living this time of year in the Midwest with the constant threat of tornadoes. I had commented on that post that, living in West Alabama I could understand since we were the South’s version of “tornado alley”. Little did I know how true Mother Nature intended to make that statement.
On April 27, 2011 Tornadoes began plummeting the Southern States primarily of Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Virgina beginning that morning and continuing well into the evening. But, as I mentioned earlier, it is part of living were we live. You watch the television, listen to the radio, and for those that can and do, monitor the weather on your computer. All of these were reduced to my car radio since I lost power in my home at 2 AM that morning so I was dependent on that and the storm sirens. I really did not know how serious things had gotten as the day went on. I have always lived by the theory that as long as I paid attention to the weather information that the chances of me and a tornado being in the same place at the same time were really too great to worry about. That has now changed.
I live in Northport, Alabama which is just across the river from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and both places always get their share of tornado watches and warnings. I am not one to huddle in my house and wait to see if one is coming at me I would like to see it coming so Rascal and I went to a park not too far from my home and listened to the radio. About 5PM all of the sirens went off and I saw a monstrous storm cloud to the southwest and decided it was a good time to head home. We went into the house, gathered up the cats into our safe space and waited. The sirens on our side of the river stopped at about 5;25PM but when I went outside I could still hear them faintly going off. I went to the the car and turned on the radio and that’s when my fear kicked in with the description of the tornado that was finishing its rampage of the city of Tuscaloosa. The areas it was hitting was bound to have been heavily populated at this time of day. My first thought, of course was about my son and his family so I grabbed my cell phone which I found very quickly was useless. Most of the cell towers had been taken out. So I started over to my son’s house and I heard James Spann, one of the top meteorologists in the area say that the same tornado was in Birmingham and headed for Northeast, Birmingham which is where my daughter lived. By the time I found my son he had heard from my daughter and she was safely out of the path and in a safe place. Then, other reports came in about the damage to Tuscaloosa and that is when the numbness began to grip me.
This tornado by early estimates had sat down on the West side of Tuscaloosa and estimates were that it was anywhere from a half mile to a mile wide. The amazing thing was that it stayed on the ground from the West side across I 359 through part of the Southside through a large federal housing project named Rosedale Courts. It continued through apartment complexes and residential areas and across a major intersection of McFarland Boulevard and Veteran’s Parkway then through more residential areas to an area known as Alberta City where it wiped out a large elementary school and more apartment complexes. It stayed on the ground through another area known as Holt wiping out homes and businesses along the way. When it was gone, and its path was assessed it had stayed on the ground for more than five miles, all of it populated areas. It had completely destroyed neighborhoods and businesses that had been there for decades. All of them gone, destroyed, obliterated, in a matter of seconds. I am sure many of you have saw the numerous videos on CNN and other news outlets and have saw the devastation. Even President Obama said he had never seen anything like it. But, that isn’t exactly what has been the traumatic, numbing effect for me. I think, as I am processing the information I have been receiving and what I have saw so far is that a great deal of my past was destroyed. The places and some of the people I have known, in those few moments were gone, obliterated, almost like they were never there.
I have called Tuscaloosa my home since 1965. I worked briefly at a local restaurant and then for six years as a police officer. I attended the University of Alabama and taught at The University from 1976 until 2003. When I was a police officer I worked in all of those areas that no longer exist. As a long time resident I had watch this city grow and improve a lot of those areas. I had made many friends and acquaintances who lived in the effected areas some of whom disappeared with those areas. I once lived in some of those areas that no longer exist, not because the areas improved, but because in a matter of seconds, they cease to exist. A guy I used to play music with live in a small house in an area called Cedar Crest. Cedar Crest no longer exists and neither does Jim. Others that I know had similar fates. It is not that their deaths needs an explanation. It is not that things don’t change, because they do. But for this many people in Tuscaloosa, and all the other communities to have lost their lives on April 27, and for that much destruction to have occurred in such a short period of time is really difficult for me to wrap my mind around. I was less than four miles from where this was happening which is nothing to a tornado, and never knew the extent of the loss of life or damage that was occurring. It is now 4 days later and the authorities still do not know if they have found all of the victims. They will be cleaning up this destruction for at least weeks and most likely months. If anyone has a secret formula to snap me out of this I would appreciate your sharing.
Mike, I appreciate the opportunity to download.Click here for reuse options!