In defense of Alabama

by CountryFriedMama on April 28, 2011

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So, listen. I’m probably an unlikely spokesperson for metro Birmingham. My Ms. Alabama title remains extremely unlikely, and I’m the first (sometimes the second and third) person to say that there are parts of this culture to which I will never acclimate.

But when I heard the broadcast of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s call with national media on the radio this morning, I was pissed off.

Governor Bentley and I have a rocky relationship. He is a super-conservative, which is completely understandable given the electorate here. But his casual mention on his inauguration day that he was only kin to those who had been “saved” was troublesome. Governor Bentley doesn’t want to be my brother. Whatever. I got over it.

I cheered for him this morning during his press call, though. When the guy from the AP asked him what Alabama had failed to do to better prepare for the tornado that hit multiple parts of the state last night, Bentley was calm, explaining that people here did everything we possible could to prepare. When the guy from Reuters asked the same offensive question, Bentley was still calm.

I wasn’t. I left the room.

Because here’s the thing, folks: People are not stupid down here. (Except for the idiots on the Rick and Bubba radio show this morning talking about how cool it was to stand outside and watch this damn thing roll in.) The meteorologists were predicting this storm all week, and predicting it would be bad. Really bad. The guy from the local Fox station (okay, you got me, I watched Fox) said he hadn’t seen a stage set for such a storm in his entire career. I’m pretty sure we all took that seriously.

But what can you do in the face of an F4 or F5 tornado? Not a heck of a lot. Schools let out early. Businesses closed. We all sat around and waited, and let me tell you, that is freaking unnerving.

Here’s how it went at our house:

We were awoken by tornado sirens at 5 a.m. Wednesday, and we dragged the kids from bed soon after to visit the basement. F that!

Something quite ugly passed us by a mile or two, knocking down transformers and trees and devastating businesses. We went dark before 6 a.m. F that!

The girls went to school, but by noon, the sky was scary. I picked them up, and they wanted to go immediately back to the basement, which they find bizarrely enjoyable. F that!

Country-Fried Daddy took a circuitous route home from work, where they had no power, past roads that were blocked by trees and power lines. He tried to buy a lantern and a battery-operated TV on the way home, but the shelves were bare. F that!

And then we waited. And waited and waited and waited. For hours. Until the TV broadcast we picked up on the radio told us the stations were evacuating non-essential personnel and anyone on air was there voluntarily. When the weather geeks get scared, I say F that!

We sat in the basement again, listening to the news from Tuscaloosa about a mile-wide tornado, an F4 or F5 category storm, of “flattened” buildings, “leveled” homes and businesses that were no longer there. The meteorologist said, “Oh my God,” which people do not say lightly down here in the Bible Belt. And we had to pretend we weren’t scared so the girls wouldn’t be scared. I do not hide my feelings well, so F that, too.

The radio named our community as next in the path of the storm, and Country-Fried Daddy told the kids it would get loud, and we would have to duck our heads. And I wondered if this were really happening.

And then the storm turned to the north and hit the city of Birmingham, not us. And we breathed again, and put the girls to bed in a dark, too-hot house. When we woke up this morning, the mayor of Birmingham was on NPR and the newspaper in our driveway had pictures I couldn’t believe. I am thankful we didn’t have power yesterday. I am thankful we did not have to turn on the TV and see what a mile-wide tornado looks like, and then sit with our children and wait for it to arrive.

I don’t know what the national networks are saying about what happened in Alabama last night. It took me 40 minutes to find a place to plug in my computer this morning, and I still haven’t seen a TV. We’re likely to be in the dark again tonight. But if any of you hear that the rising death toll and devastation across Alabama happened because we weren’t ready for the F4 or F5 tornado that moved across the state, I hope you’ll say F that, too, because there is no way to be ready for what happened here.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Mindee@ourfrontdoor April 28, 2011 at 11:16 am

Thanks for the front lines reporting. It sounds so scary.

You’re absolutely right – you can’t prepare for a tornado. What are you going to do? Move the buildings? Try to predict the path?

Stay safe.

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CountryFriedMama
Twitter: countryfried
April 29, 2011 at 2:26 pm

Exactly. People need someone to blame, I guess, but the truth is that Mother Nature is one mean, old lady when she wants to be. There’s only so much to do when she gets good and mad.

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Michelle Touchton April 28, 2011 at 11:52 am

I have been glued to the tv and computer since yesterday afternoon. I cannot stop thinking about all of my family and friends in Birmingham. I admire your ability to stay calm for your children… I’m not sure I could do the same myself. Please let us know if there is anything we can do from Mobile.

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CountryFriedMama
Twitter: countryfried
April 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I wasn’t particularly calm. I married a very calm man, thankfully!

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Becky
Twitter: BamaNois
April 28, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Thank you for telling your story! Made me cry… would it be ok to link this post? Y’all stay safe!!!!!

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CountryFriedMama
Twitter: countryfried
April 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

Of course! Link away, and thanks for your kind thoughts.

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C @ Kid Things
Twitter: kidthingsnet
April 28, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Terrifying. I live in IL, so we are no strangers to tornado warnings and sirens. Thankfully, they’ve never struck close to me. Yet. I have no idea what I’d do if we were in the path, since we’re without a basement. I’m glad your family is safe and those there and the states hard hit around you are in my thoughts.

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CountryFriedMama
Twitter: countryfried
April 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm

It’s amazing how many people survived by hiding in their bathtubs. Their homes are gone, and they survived in the bathtub. Miraculous, I think.

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Mel April 28, 2011 at 6:51 pm

I agree with your comments re Bentley. He kept his cool knowing about all the loss of life and destruction around you in Birmingham and Tuscalossa and many other parts of his state. I am also proud of you and David for managing the situation so well with Miss D and Miss A. I have experienced several earthquakes in my life in CA and in Japan but nothing can prepare you for the “Big One”. I am truly thankful that you are all safe. My thoughts and prayers go out to all the people of Alabama as you all come to deal with this horrific destruction and loss of life.

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Larry Bouchie April 29, 2011 at 1:52 pm

Wow. This is an excellent, excellent account of what things were like there, with the addition of your powerful perspective. One of the best things I’ve read all month.

On another note, really happy to hear you and family are OK.

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CountryFriedMama
Twitter: countryfried
April 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Thanks so much, Larry. We were very, very lucky.

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Amber B. April 29, 2011 at 5:53 pm

This is so much like what happened at our house. Terrifying. Our power came back on right as the Tuscaloosa tornado was on t.v. As we watched, I looked at my kids and truly wondered if they would forever be 4 and 1. We were all in bike helmets in our “safe place”. I can’t imagine what all of those people who lost loved ones and property feel.

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Rachel @ Grasping for Objectivity
Twitter: objectivityrach
April 30, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Agreed – Alabama is unbelievably prepared and equipped to handle tornadoes. I mean we have James Spann, for crying out loud! But those storms were literally unsurvivable.

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