High tide, low tide, Roll Tide.

Six years ago today my life changed forever. It wasn’t because it was my first tornado or anything. I may have lived all over the country, but I’m southern born and southern bred….I know a thing or two about weather.
Thanks, James Spann.
I know the rumbling and roaring of a train when you’re nowhere near tracks. I know the chilling silence that comes mere seconds after a tornado takes out your neighbor’s freshly planted azaleas. And their birdbath. And their swing set which is now somehow in your front yard. I know what it’s like to wake up in the hospital because 250 mph winds send you headfirst into a wall.
April 27, 2011 was not the first time I had dealt with tornados.
But it definitely wasn’t what I was used to.
348 people were killed across the South on April 27, 2011. 252 of those people were killed in Alabama alone.
What I hadn’t expected was to get stranded 45 miles from my house without power for a week. I hadn’t planned on having my friends and family scattered across the state, yet still somehow all in the line of danger. I wasn’t prepared for the phone call I received that night to tell me how a girl I had spoken with almost every day for the last three years died because her ribs punctured her lung when her house collapsed on her. I called and texted literally everyone I knew after that. And even though there were three friends who didn’t respond to my roll call, nothing prepared me for the day that I got internet back more than a week later, and I found them all on a list of storm related deaths.
I didn’t recognize large portions of my state anymore because all the trees were gone, the buildings were crumbled, restaurants I’d eaten at since childhood nowhere to be seen. What was this, what had happened, and how in the hell were we ever going to be okay ever again?
But we were. And we are. There’s still so many people trying to put back their lives six years later. I’m still dealing with a lot of what I saw. But all the disaster and distruction I saw pales in comparison to the outpouring of love, compassion, and community that followed it.
I’m filled with a roller coaster of emotions today.
There are waves of sadness for the things and the people I lost. Feelings of anxiety when my brain flashes back to those moments when I didn’t know what would happen, when I couldn’t reach my family on the phone. The sinking feeling in my stomach when just as I thought it couldn’t get any worse, they projected yet another tornado headed straight for Tuscaloosa. I cry when I think about watching the sky crack open that morning with a flash of green light right before I watched a tornado touch down three blocks up the road from where I was standing.
But there’s so many feelings of joy when I think about hanging out by a fire or playing catch with my friends outside for a week straight because there was no electricity, no gas for our cars, and nothing else to do but worry. Feelings of pride as I saw my state rebuild itself. Feelings of gratitude that even though I lost so much, I managed to walk out not only alive but with my house still standing, my family members alive, and not a single scratch upon me.
It makes me proud of the place I call home to say we’ve come so far since that day took so much away. It’s really hard to be so far from home on days like today, it makes my heart yearn for red dirt.
But it’s a spirit I always keep with me.
High tide, low tide, Roll Tide.

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