When the winds calmed

Ian Sams

When the winds calmed and the skies lightened, I walked into the debris and disarray of the tornado. Less than two hours after an F-5 demolished homes and businesses and lives on and around 15th Street, members of our university’s ROTC, firemen, and average citizens entered abandoned homes—many without roofs or windows or walls—and searched for the living. Many, I imagine, are dead. Many more have lives that will forever be altered.

One young man—he looked to be a college sophomore or so—walked the streets of a battered neighborhood with an elderly woman who had linked her arm with his. I wondered if he knew her. (I bet he didn’t.)

Young women roamed somewhat aimlessly in the direction of DCH hospital. One of them was clutching a small, flat-screen television; another carried a suitcase under her arm. Was that all they had left? Was it all that could be salvaged?

It was the set of a film, not midtown Tuscaloosa. I think I heard sirens for six hours straight. They were rushing to Holt and Alberta, where I can only imagine the devastation is as bad or worse.

I had made it through unscathed, untouched by the devastation and pummeling unrestraint of nature’s force. But I was pained for those who didn’t. I worried for their immediate futures: the weeks waiting for insurance claims; the night in the hospital; the sheer impact of hopelessness slamming them with the energy and ignorance of that momentary funnel cloud.

Friends of mine survived the incredible tornado at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, a couple years ago. They told stories of hiding in closets, only to open their doors to see their apartments or dorms gone. The campus united in a way it had never been, and they rebuilt.

Today, we’re faced with a situation we don’t want. Even the religious among us see devastation like this and wonder how God could possibly let it happen. We weep, and we feel despair.

But in the coming days, we’ll find ways to help. We’ll clean up a yard or donate clothes. Our mayor will lead, and our university will lend its hands.

We can’t salvage homes or cars. But we can take pieces of ourselves and give them to those whose lives are fragmented. We can see our neighbors as our brothers, and we can work to make them whole again.

At The University of Alabama, we touch lives. In this, our time of great hurt, we must touch each other’s spirits with warmth and empathy.

We’ll clean up, and we’ll rebuild together.

Ian C. Sams is a senior majoring in political science.