Treacherous tornados leaves dozens dead, more hurt in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Editor’s note: Covering devastation such as the tornados that tore through Alabama is not easy. I approached this story praying that I would find a thread that would lead me to someone like Brett Booth. I was in class when someone asked for prayer for their friend Aly who’s hometown had been ripped through. It was one of those split second decisions I had to make.
I knew this was my chance to find a source, so I approached the girl and asked for Aly’s full name and email so that I could contact her regarding an interview. After interviewing Aly I asked her is she had any friends who were in Alabama at the time, and she gave me Kelly Lee’s phone number. I called Kelly, and to my amazement she was with Brett, an eyewitness. From that point the story put itself together. The hardest part was figuring out what to put in and what could be left out.
The minute before it hit we could hear it — just like a train — but the sun was shining, it looked beautiful,” Brett Booth, University of Alabama (UA) baseball player, said.
Tornadoes tore through the southeastern region of the U.S. Wednesday, April 27, and in their wake they left more people devastated than just those who were in their path.
Liberty University student Alyson Little recalled her first reaction when she heard of the disaster to her home state of Alabama.
“Being 10 hours away from my family and hearing that a tornado is on the ground on the street my parents live on is a horrible feeling,” Little said. “James Spann from ABC 33 announced that a tornado was touching down on Blackjack Road, which is my street, and I immediately busted into tears.”
Little’s friend, and UA student, Kelly Lee was in Tuscaloosa at the time of the storm.
“The first thing I felt when the storm hit was worry,” Lee said. “I watched the tornado rip through the city on the television, then we lost power. All I could think about was all of the students.”
Students such as Lee’s good friend Booth witnessed the storm from its eye.
The day began as any other day, according to Booth. Class, baseball practice and time with friends was all that was on the agenda — until the storm.
“It was a beautiful day. It had stormed earlier, but when I woke up and headed to class it was beautiful out,” Booth said. “I had no idea that there would be bad weather.”
After his first class convinced their teacher to let them out early because of weather reports of the approaching storms, Booth proceeded with his normal routine and headed to baseball practice.
“The tornado sirens started to go off during practice, but we didn’t think much of them,” Booth said. “I have lived here for 20 years, the sirens go off all the time this time of year, and we have never had a storm like that one.”
Booth and three friends headed back to a home on 15th Street in Tuscaloosa to weather the storm.
“We were watching the weather on the television before the power went out — we saw the tornado (on TV),” Booth said. “We had no idea it was actually going to hit us though.”
When the windows began shaking, Booth and his three friends huddled into the bathroom, seeking safety.
“We heard the glass shatter, that’s when we knew it was going to be bad,” Booth said. “All of the windows shattered and then the front door flew into the house. We could hear it slam against the wall.”
The severity of the storm lasted only 30 seconds, but its impact was too severe for words, Booth said.
“After the tornado had passed, we came out of the bathroom, and everything was ruined,” Booth said. “The door was in the back of the house, and the windows were all gone.”
“We went outside and there were trees on top of all of our cars,” Booth said. “The house next to us was upside down — three people were dead in there.”
The tornado left nearly 190 people dead in Tuscaloosa alone, according to an AP press release on April 28.
“It was the scariest moment in my life,” Booth said. “It made me realize how powerful God is. You realize you have no control and how big and powerful he is when you are in a bathroom, with doors and windows shattering all around you. You are in his hands — everything is out of your control.”
Churches are grouping together to support their community, according to Little.
“They are doing what they can to help out. My brother Adam has a crew from my home church meeting to help cut trees, search for anyone who may be missing and to provide basic needs for the people who have nothing right now,” Little said. “My family consists of all believers, so we are praying as hard as we can for God to provide and to give comfort and understanding to all who were affected.”
Devastation often brings people together, Little said.
Though the wake of the storm has left Tuscaloosa ripped apart, no words or images can express the emotions that were felt both where the tornado hit, and in the hearts of those whom it reached through family and friends.
“You can’t explain the feeling we had in that bathroom, on 15th Street in Tuscaloosa Wednesday, you just can’t,” Booth said.