On April 27, 2011, Kyle was a broadcaster with a group of radio stations in Tuscaloosa. He was part of a team which provided live round-the-clock coverage from the first warning’s issuance to the final West Alabama family had power restored. These are his thoughts looking back at the storm.
It has been six years today.
Try as I might, I can never wipe this footage from my memory. I could still take you back to my old office at the radio station and step-by-step recreate every action I took between when the Tornado Warning was issued and when the storm passed. I can show you the spot where I was standing when we thought the funnel cloud had turned toward the University campus. The only difference is that I wouldn’t be able to do it in the same timeframe; that day it seemed as if God slowed time.
Thankfully, when somebody mentions April 27, 2011, this footage is no longer what immediately comes to my mind.
I remember fielding calls from widows who needed help getting their car cut out from under trees, followed by calls from men with chainsaws willing to work for free who needed flashlight batteries. Still, I remember their selflessness.
I remember the Greek houses who cooked meals, Honors College students who created platforms from scratch to increase volunteer coordination, and the Tuscaloosa community members from all walks of life who as soon as the storm cleared began to do whatever it was they could do to help those who were hurting. Still, I remember their action.
I remember riding through town on a Gator, handing out water, helping wherever I could, and listening to people’s stories. As I helped folks move debris, I heard stories of riding out the storm in bathtubs and stories of watching the wind pull dogs off the ground. I saw of yards littered with photos from neighbors homes, but, mostly, I heard stories of what people planned to do to get started back with their life. Still, I remember their resilience.
I remember sitting in our studio refreshing the impromptu missing persons website, praying that the list would begin to get smaller but watching it get longer. Still, I remember the joy as people up and down the list started getting marked as safe.
I know my story is not all that different from anybody else who was in Tuscaloosa that day. I didn’t get hurt. My apartment didn’t get blown away. Heck, my car didn’t even get hail damage. I was lucky. Too many others were not. Still, I remember those who weren’t so lucky.
On this April 27th, I don’t think about the damage. I don’t think about the funnel cloud. I vividly remember the herculean effort in the days and weeks following the storm where the entire Tuscaloosa community came together, across any imaginable line, to help folks. In the days and weeks following April, 27, 2011, I saw a place that displayed the values we talk so much about as Alabamians but so often fail to live: leadership, honesty, dedication, opportunity. Ultimately, I remember a community that experienced great loss, then rose to the occasion to overcome it.