Archived Story

Level of storm’s destruction is shocking

Published 7:59am Saturday, April 30, 2011

Journalists are always looking for a compelling story and crave breaking news, but few if any want to cover events like the tornado outbreak that struck Alabama Wednesday afternoon.

Witnessing the death and destruction and relaying the stories to the public is a difficult task, although it is nothing in comparison to the problems of the people who lost family members, their homes or both.

I have witnessed the power of major storms before — I lived in Huntsville in 1989 when a tornado ripped through the town killing 22 people.

I was in Orlando in 2004 when Hurricane Charley made its way across Florida.

Neither of these storms seemed to produce the damage I witnessed in Hackleburg when I went there Thursday to document the damage for today’s edition of The Franklin County Times.

As I approached the town the damage did not seem too bad, but then I saw the Wrangler plant. The big building was reduced to a pile of rubble.

I proceeded down the road and parked my car in the shopping center that once housed the Piggly Wiggly and Dollar General. Walking up to what remained of the building made me speechless.

I figured brick buildings with metal frames would be a safe haven from tornados, but the stores were demolished like a child who kicked over a creation he made with Lincoln Logs.

Walking down U.S. 43 I took several photos of homes shredded to pieces, foundations with no sign of the buildings they belonged to and debris that was very much out of place such as a basketball goal 60 yards from the nearest house.

As I made my way down the road to the school I couldn’t help but notice the town smelled like a lumber yard because of all the trees snapped in half.

It was tough to see the destruction, and I do not have any friends or family living in Hackleburg. I can’t imagine the emotions people who have family living there have experienced since the storm.

As I made my way through the town and witnessed the devastation first hand, I doubted if the town of Hackleburg would ever exist again. Then I noticed how the residents were reacting.

Instead of walking around in a daze – which they have every right to do — the people of Hackleburg were busy picking up the pieces and moving forward.

It was an inspiring sight to behold and made me realize some of the problems going on in my life are insignificant in comparison.

I will never forget what I experienced in Hackleburg Thursday. I wish the residents well in their quest to rebuild and move ahead.

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