U.S.A./ Alabama, hope after the storm

BIRMINGHAM (Alabama) – After horrific tornadoes rip through the South, Michael Franklin, an Alabama resident who live in Clay, found a t-shirt from Hueytown on top of his house. Hueytown is located 35 miles south of Clay. He is not the only one who has found strange items around his home . The storm systems that came through the South were so powerful that many residents found pieces of debris from more than 50 miles away scattered across their front yards. But Alabama residents don’t lose courage after this drammatic event. Speak to any of them and you are likely to hear a story about the tornadoes that rampaged through the State on April 27th.

As you drive through many of the suburbs of Birmingham (Alabama), the most destruction you are probably able to see are some tree limbs gathered on the sides of the roads and piled in front lawns. However, driving 20 miles east or south of these relatively unscathed areas reveals mass destruction. The sight of mangled trees, ravaged houses and debris flung through yards and caught in power lines will leave you speechless. Many, though, are just thankful to be alive.

Around here there are many people as Michael Franklin, who are lucky to be able to tell their stories. Some of them have found photos and documents. A Facebook community called Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes has been set up to reunite people with these lost treasures. Others witnessed further wreckage literally raining out of the sky. Chris Dewberry, a Pinson resident, said, “I’ve lived in this area for over 20 years and I’ve never seen pieces of far away houses scattered across my neighborhood. It makes you realize how bad things are, even if you weren’t struck by the big stuff yourself.” Dewberry, found pieces of roofing shingles, wood and insulation in his yard.

Destroyed Barn, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn
Tree fells truck, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn
Trees snapped like twigs, Alabama, May 2011 Ph. Amanda Dunn
Downed power lines with debris, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn
Bottled water donations, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn
Scraps of metal hang from power lines, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn
Donations for babies and small children, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn
Donations of paper products, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn
Mangled remains of a house, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn
Destroyed Barn, Alabama, May 2011. Ph. Amanda Dunn

Despite all the devastation, the reason many Alabama residents have not lost hope is due to the outpouring of support from other residents. Everywhere you drive there are signs advertising tornado relief donation sites and recruiting volunteers. Church of the Highlands, one of the larger churches in Central Alabama with campuses in Birmingham, Hoover, Auburn and Tuscaloosa, started taking donations almost immediately after the storms had passed. Highlands took advantage of their website and social-network connections to begin asking for help. Members and non-members alike began dropping off bottled water, food, clothing and personal hygiene items at many of their donation sites.

Groups of volunteers gathered to help sort and distribute these items to those in need. Kimberly Hamrick, a Musical Therapist from Hoover, wanted to do help. As one of the many volunteers for Highlands she said, “I was blessed enough to have all of my family and property unharmed. After trying—and failing— I just had a need in me to do something, anything I could.” Those are the sentiments of many of the disaster relief volunteers, to just be able to “DO” something.

Overall, this powerful storm system may have caused severe damage across the State of Alabama, but it did not destroy the spirit of hope and giving that most southerners live by. For many, helping a neighbor in need is a natural reaction in uneasy times. People just want to lend a hand, whether it be donating money or goods, or helping someone who lives hundreds of miles away to clear debris off their property.

Although the storms that rampaged through Alabama and other States in the southeastern United States left a massive path of death and destruction, the outpouring of donations and willingness to volunteer speaks volumes for the “Southern Charm” that many so often hear about.

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