4-28-2011 Journal Entry:
It was still dark outside Wednesday morning. At about 5:15 AM, I was awakened by the sound of three tornado sirens nearby. A flash of lightning lit up the sky. Seconds later, a booming rumble of thunder. I went to the window to watch. More bolts of lightning; more clashes of thunder. The strong winds swayed the trees back and forth. The dogs outside were curled up on the front porch, whimpering. It started to rain. We heard on the radio that a tornado warning had been issued for Cullman County. We waited, but nothing happened. The storm eventually passed. Everything finally calmed down, and at last the sun was out, but that’s never a good sign.
Later in the afternoon, we headed for Jones Chapel to get to a better shelter, because the worst was yet to come. When evening came, so did the tornadoes. The weather man began announcing tornadoes left and right; a bad one in Tuscaloosa, one headed for Jefferson County, and another one headed our way. There were very strong winds, dark grey clouds, and our power eventually went out, but there were still no tornadoes where we were.
The darkness eventually began closing in; night had fallen, but everyone was still in danger. The thunderstorms got worse, and because no one could see, tornadoes became harder to track. There was another one coming from Crane Hill. We even had some hail, but no tornado came to us.
Someone told us the Cullman County courthouse had been hit, and that the tornado went right through town. We prayed fervently for everyone’s safety.
Still, no tornadoes in Jones Chapel. It was now nearing 10 PM, and everything was finally east of us, but the storms still very strong on that side of the state. During the night things calmed down, and all we could do was wait till morning.
When daylight shone, the damages were revealed–houses destroyed, power lines and towers and trees down, and roads blocked. People were missing in Alabama, and many lives were lost. Whole cities–businesses, homes, church buildings–were destroyed.
A huge part of our beautiful Cullman was a disaster … The historic district got the brunt of it all.
It’s been five years already since that dreadful day of tornadoes in Alabama. We lost so much in our state and cities. Not everyone was directly hit by the worst of these storms, but we were all affected in some way.
Some lost their homes, businesses, live stock, and even family members, but I did not see anyone lose hope. Some would have surely let a horrid catastrophe like that ruin their attitudes, dampen their spirits, and wreck their ambition, but the people of Cullman stuck together. I watched as communities united to help one another. Those with water, electricity, shelter, food, and clothing were very generous to lend a hand and help out in whatever ways they could. We were among the last in West Point to have power turned back on–eight whole days–because of downed trees and power lines but many were without it for even longer.
It’s been a long road of rebuilding, but I do believe our state is stronger for it.
April 27, 2011 is a day we will never forget.