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Hartselle Enquirer

It's hard to understand the aftermath

By Staff
Leada Gore, Editor
Ask any news reporter and they will probably relate to you the story of the "big one" – a natural disaster they covered that left a major impression on them. For me, it was a tornado that hit central Alabama in 1994.
Anyone watching the news knew there was bad weather in the area, so I didn't get too concerned when they said Shelby County was under a tornado watch. Quickly, however, that watch became a warning and the radio announcer said there was damage in Jefferson County and the storm was headed our way.
For some reason this news prompted me to walk out onto my porch, something that looking back seems like an idiotic thing to do. I noticed the sky was a strange greenish yellow color and the tops of the trees were whipping around violently. I went back inside, still not too concerned about the weather. About 15 minutes later reports of damage came across the radio. An F-5 tornado had hit less than three miles from my house and the damage was extensive.
The tornado had touched down at the start of a busy intersection and then skipped down the road, leveling trees and signs and ripping tops off roofs. Large signs, the type designed to beckon drivers off the interstate, had been cracked in two, crashing down on cars. The tornado had knocked down so many trees that homes and businesses once hidden by branches now were clearly visible from the street.
The storm had killed people in Jefferson County and done damage here. Thankfully, it had lifted up close to where I lived, probably about the time I was standing on my porch.
I interviewed a fireman who had been to Jefferson County after the storm and he said it was the worse thing he had ever seen.
"There's nothing left," he said of the small community where the tornado first touched down.
The devastation I saw was incredible and, I thought at the time, as bad as a natural disaster could be.
Unfortunately, I was wrong.
It's been heartbreaking to watch the news from those suffering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, a storm so violent that it makes a F-5 tornado seem like a gentle breeze. Things are so bad, so unbelievable that it makes it hard to get your mind around what's going on there. For a change, the massive natural disaster isn't "over there," it's right here – places many of us have been and seen.
As with Sept. 11, 2001, I hope this tragedy draws our nation together and we are able to renew, restore and rebuild. Now, however, it seems as if we must get through the darkest days first. And those, I'm afraid, will be with all of us for a long time.

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