The more stories I read and edit, the harder it hits me that it has been a year. One would think that after reading and rereading story after story with the words “tornado,” “April 27, 2011,” or “Tuscaloosa,” it would get easier. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The more difficult it gets to think about the events surrounding that day, I find myself turning to my safety net… writing.
I’ll never forget where I was or what I was doing on April 27, 2011, as cliché as this phrase may sound. I remember sitting on the purple couch in what is still my dorm room on the 3rd floor of Riverside West, studying for my Ear Training final that would have happened the next day. Because classes had been cancelled and my roommate and I wanted to make sure we kept an eye on whatever was going on, the weather channel was on. My roommate said something along the lines of “As long as the power stays on, we won’t die.” Just a few short minutes later, the power went out.
My heart began racing. I’ve never been a fan of storms. In fact, I hate when it rains. Something about the way the power went out shortly after my roommate’s comment began making my stomach hurt. I remember the skies outside our window getting incredibly dark and cloudy as crazy reddish lightning began to strike every few minutes or so. I even recall my roommate trying to get a picture of the sky while my other roommate fixed herself a plate of devilled eggs. I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when the rain stopped and we all realized that this storm was going to be much worse than we originally imagined.
The first moment of true realization occurred when the power flickered back on for a brief hour after the first storm passed. I don’t remember what time it was, but I remember all of my roommates and I immediately turning the television back on and powering on all of our laptops to figure out what was going on.
The picture that first hit me was of the destruction of Krispy Kreme about five minutes from my dorm. As I clicked through more and more pictures and read statuses on Facebook and Twitter trying to assess what was going on, I remember wondering what was to come. When the storms had all completely passed, the power was out again and the first thing I wanted to do was go outside and see if my car was okay. It was when I walked outside that I was finally able to get a hold of my dad on the phone and tell him that I was okay despite what he was seeing on the news.
Less than 48 hours later, I was back home in Muscle Shoals, but that short period that I stayed in Tuscaloosa felt like the longest hours of my life.
I remember thinking how insane that week ended up. Two days after the tornado, the Royal Wedding began filling the media. A few days after that, Osama Bin Laden’s death/capture consumed the rest of it.
I realize I am leaving out dozens of details, but trying to keep my thoughts in order today has not been my strongest suit. There have been moments today where I have found myself avoiding certain things that bring back memories from last year. I have avoided the purple couch in our living room, for instance. I have, however, read several news pieces and reflections people have posted online, though I haven’t cried yet, today. A year ago, I found myself in tears at the mere mentions of the events of April 27, 2011. Today, I have been trying to find all of the positive things that have come out of the tornado and continue forward. However, I will never forget the events of last year.