“My heart was shattered” – a reflection on April 27th


Caroline Franklin

I remember April 27, 2011 pretty clearly. 

I am a Tuscaloosa native so the tornado definitely took a toll on me. To see your hometown completely flattened was really heartbreaking, and I still have the images from that day stuck in my mind. 

I was in the 9th grade in high school when the tornado struck Tuscaloosa. On April 26th, the day before the tornado, I remember sitting in my English class around 12 pm. Another student in the class told us all to look out of the window. Even though it was in the middle of the afternoon, everything outside was pitch black. I guess that was a foreshadow of the next day to come. Schools were cancelled the next day because of possible bad weather. 

I was sitting at home with my family when the tornado sirens went off. My family lived in a neighborhood with a fire station in it so the sirens from the station were so loud being so close to us. I remember feeling scared and trying to hear my parents over the sirens. My family put our pets and our valuables in the bathroom with no windows. My little sister was watching our dogs while my mom and I monitored the tornado on the TV to see which direction it would take. I remember seeing the mile-wide tornado head for DCH hospital. The second the tornado passed over DCH, all of our lights went off. 

The tornado started following the interstate and our neighborhood was right off of that same interstate in the direction the tornado was coming. We jumped into the bathroom with the radio and waited for the silence of the approaching tornado and then the loud “freight train” noise that follows the silence. The silence never came and the weather man noted that the tornado had changed its course a half of a mile before it reached us. 

When it was safe to exit, we jumped in our car to check on my grandparents. I remember seeing so much rubble from buildings and houses. I remember being able to see Bryant-Denny stadium from my neighborhood, a site that was once blocked by buildings and trees. People were walking around with bloody and dirty clothes. Lakes were filled with debris and even cars. The boats at my family’s boat dock were all thrown on to the shore and the water in the lake was very low. Neighborhoods were wiped out. 

The national guard was directing everyone. Our grandparents were fine, and they were some of the only people in Tuscaloosa with power and running water. That same night, since my house had no power or water, we drove to my grandparents’ house to stay until the utilities could be turned back on. It was only 9 pm and we drove through a part of town that would have been very well lit on any other day, but everything was so dark and so quiet. No cars were on the roads we drove to my grandparents’ house. Seeing otherwise busy parts of Tuscaloosa that empty and that dark made everything look like a scene from an apocalyptic movie. I had friends from school who lost their homes or loved ones. 

Although I didn’t have to experience the tragedy of losing a house or loved one, my heart was still shattered by the scene of my hometown, the place I was born and raised, being completely destroyed.