Most people in the southeast region remember vividly what this day represents. It’s forever etched in our minds; each of us remembering it on our own unique way. For most of is this day is a sad reminder of the things we lost, the lives that were affected, and the destruction that changed the face of our city. I must admit though, I never tire of hearing someone’s story of where they were, when the storm came through. It reminds me that no matter our different our lives are, how diverse our backgrounds, we are all connected in our humanity. We are all subject to the same misfortunes, the same range of emotions. Looking back, I can remember seeing people in the community come together helping each other, with a common goal in mind. Most of the faces that are etched in my memory bare the same look of shock, and hopelessness. Over time though those same faces have come to bear a look of resilience and
hopefulness; and only occasionally do I see glimpses of heartache when people speak of how the tragedy affected them.
My Story is simple. On April 27th 2011, I was working on an ambulance in Bessemer, Al. I wasn’t yet a paramedic, and I don’t recall how my unit wound up in Tuscaloosa. Honestly, I didn’t know until speaking to my mother at around 3:30 pm that we were even expecting bad weather. Ive always had a fear of tornadoes, more like a phobia (Lilapsophobia). So for me, the entire incident was one of the most frightening things I’ve ever faced. I won’t bore you with particulars, mostly because I’ve tried hard to bury some of the unpleasantries I encountered on University Blvd East. The smell of wood, pine, hung in the air. That much I will never forget. I could hear silence, an absence of the humming that radiates from electrical lines. There was no gentle roar of cars passing by. There was no music playing. I don’t recall hearing any of the sounds I’d grown to associate with Alberta city. I did instead, hear the voices of people for what seemed like miles away. It was as of the voices of people were made all the more appearant by the calm after the storm.
An overwhelming experience it was. All at once I wanted to help everyone, yet I felt very helpless to say the least. It seemed I was standing in the midst of pure chaos. I remember finally making it to DCH hospital, hoping to regain a sense of familiarity. I remember the sight of so many people lining the walls, crammed in the waiting room, clinging to every available space of the emergency room- it was breathtaking. At one point I simply walked around the emergency room, taking it all in. It was my first time being a part of a mass casualty incident, and I don’t think anything could have prepared me for it. That was four years ago today, and though we have made great strides in reconstructing our city, those memories still stay with me.
Late that evening, after several hours of working, I went home to my family, (who had only suffered loss of electricity.) I had never been so thankful to see my family. I had never been so grateful to be home and be safe. It’s amazing how sometimes it takes a tragedy to make you realize how blessed you really are. In the days that followed, time seemed to stand still. School was cancelled and for days. It seemed like life would never get back to normal. Four years later and I’m still getting used to seeing new stores, new homes. Places that were once fixtures in mind, landmarks-I’ve come to accept that they will never again be there. But life goes on. My heart goes out to the all families, and nameless faces I saw that day. I pray for those who still mourn the loss of their loved ones. And I continually hope the spirit of resilience will survive in my home city.