In just a few minutes, it will be 5:13 Central Time, six months to the minute that an F-4 tornado ripped through the heart of Tuscaloosa, killing 52, injuring hundreds, and destroying much of the city I’ve come to love.
It seems like yesterday that my wife and I were huddled in our hallway, along with our weeks-old son and our pets. The cable went out. Then the electricity. We couldn’t see, but we could hear.
It sounded like a freight train was coming right for us. Had the tornado continued its original course, it would have ripped right through our neighborhood. I probably wouldn’t be here, writing about it. Lives were ripped apart that day. People killed, homes and businesses lost. In Forest Lake, there was no more forest. The trees were stripped out of the earth and flung aside, as if thrown down by an angry child.
Along 15th Street, dozens of businesses simply are no longer there. In Rosedale Court, a low-income housing development, apartments were crushed to so much kindling. A friend of mine owned an apartment complex in Alberta City. It is gone. In the days that followed the tornado, the place looked like a bomb crater.
But we are still here. We are rebuilding. There are tears. There is pain. There is survival. Our hearts were hurt — they still hurt. But our hearts were not crushed. We will move on from this, even though we look back now and shed tears for what was, what is, and what could have been. We will heal.
Six months. It feels like yesterday. In the moment, I think it will always feel like it happened yesterday, even though I know that the passage of time will help heal the hurt. But part of me will always be locked to that day when so many of the people I know lost so much.
Tuscaloosa, my adopted home town. Tuscaloosa, I love you.