Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I'm Not Mary Chapin Carpenter, But I Feel Lucky...

Several days ago,  I drove through Hackleburg and Phil Campbell, two very small communities that were destroyed by one of over 100 tornadoes that swept through Alabama on the afternoon of April 27, 2011.  This tornado was particularly deadly, cutting a swath through the countryside, stripping bark from the hardwood trees that are so prevalent here, with winds of over 200 mph. The tornado first touched down in Hackleburg (population approx. 1,500), where 29 people were killed.  It then continued on to Phil Campbell (population approx. 1,000), killing 18 more.  I had never been to either town, but it was shocking to see the devastation almost two months later. This is what's left  of one of the  residential streets in Hackleburg.
I went inside this house, but there was so much glass on the ground, I didn't stay long.  It was totally destroyed, and the owners must have moved on, leaving what remained behind.  A cat ran through what was the back door, when I walked in.

 There was a stuffed bear under some debris on a couch.

Here's a piece of someone's lace curtain.

When I stepped out of my car, the first thing I noticed was the sound of heavy equipment and saws.  The air was heavy with humidity, and the smell of wood.  There is so much work left to do, it's mind-boggling, but that's what people were doing, in the 98 degree sun.  Where this house once stood, the only things recognizable were an artificial Christmas tree and a broken piece of costume jewelry.  A man walked slowly around the debris.  I said, "Isn't this just the worst thing ever?"  He gruffly replied, "No ma'am.  The worst thing is my Mama dying here."

Many trees in this area were old and stately.  The tornado uprooted them with ease, this one larger than my car.
The little town of Phil Campbell is only a few miles up a beautifully winding country road. If possible, it looked worse than Hackleburg.  Upside down vehicles dotted the landscape.  Trailers never stood a chance. Trees were bare.  On one lot, the house was completely gone, but there was a dog house left standing.

The press wasn't in either town.  I was the only one with a camera.  Everyone was busy rebuilding schools, churches and homes.  I guess it was considered old news...that is, to everyone except those who lived there, and those who still do.  It started to rain as I headed away from the damage.  I felt guilty.  I felt blessed.  But most of all, I felt incredibly lucky.

1 comment:

  1. Heartbreakingly beautiful. I don't know what made me tear up more - the teddy bear or the man lamenting his Mama.

    I cannot even imagine.