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Our Spirit Will Not Be Broken: Voices from the April StormsOur Spirit Will Not Be Broken: Voices from the April Storms

April 27, 2011 & January 23, 2012
by Terri Robinette

April 27, 2011

We sat huddled together in the living room listening to the sounds of trees uprooting, glass shattering and metal shingles banging. After the longest five minutes of our lives, an eerie silence beckoned us to the door. We opened to another world. Scenes of destruction were everywhere: hundred year old trees lying in yards and across the road, roofs missing from houses, cars crushed. My parents have lived in their Cahaba Heights home for over forty years and this was not the Cahaba Heights that we recognized. Then peeking through the chaos was a small ray of sunshine. Hope bloomed in the generosity and presence of others. Vestavia Police were knocking door to door to check on residents. Vestavia Fire was cutting trees to gain access to roadways. Two very nice young boys from Birmingham United Soccer knocked on our door with kind words, a smile and a gift card to a local restaurant. Volunteers had swooped in offering water, a helping hand and even a shoulder to cry on. The love continued to flow from Pratt City to Tuscaloosa to Fultondale to Moody to Cahaba Heights and all the way to Phil Campbell and Huntsville. Neighbors helping neighbors and people from across the nation and even across the world were offering to help. People gave food and water, clothing, their time and their money. My daughter and I had the pleasure of volunteering for a few hours at the Christian Service Mission (CSM). The nice man who was speaking with the volunteers explained it best. In the beginning, there was immediate need. Then FEMA stepped in and people began to receive money and EBT. Sadly, the money will not last long and people will still be in need. That is when organizations supplied by the CSM will step in. He called them “GEMA” or God’s emergency management assistance. What a wonderful way of expressing it! While we were at CSM, volunteers included Samford students, UAB’s women’s basketball team, a wonderful group of elderly ladies from Shades Mountain Baptist Church and even a group of Clemson students who had drove down for the day. Alabama was struck by an awful tragedy. It will take years to rebuild all that is lost and some may never recover. Over two hundred lives were lost on that fateful day, a day that will not be forgotten by us Alabamians. However, we must also remember the love that has been shown from one person to another. It is in the darkest of times that individual people shine the brightest. Thank you to everyone for your love and support. May we continue to remember our neighbors in need after the initial crisis has faded from the headlines.

January 23, 2012

Summer lived with my parents in April 2011 when the straight line winds severely damaged homes in Cahaba Heights. Trees fell on their house and across their yard. The house, driveway and all three cars were damaged. But more importantly, Summer still bears scars of the raging storms. So when she moved into our old home, she was so excited. She told me that she felt safe there. She has been living there for about a month and a half.

Yesterday, she woke me from sleep at about 330 am telling me that the storm had picked up in Centerpoint. I got up and went to the couch to talk to her. She was having a touch of a panic attack so I walked her through deep breathing and told her to go to the bathroom and get in the tub. I have to admit that I was doing it for her emotional wellbeing, I had no idea the storm was so severe. It may have been only a few minutes but it felt like seconds before she began screaming and crying that a tornado was hitting the house. I will never forget the sound and feeling so helpless.

Now that I have given you a little lead-in, I will tell you my miracle. Summer was trapped in the bathroom surrounded by a broken house. The bed where she had lain only moments before – gone beneath a tree and a pile of rubble. Inside the bathroom, I would later learn from Jim, – scenes of a nightmare. He was visibly shaken when he saw it in the daylight. Summer would tell me that as she sat in the tub, the windows burst and the door flew off the hinges (that was when she began screaming on the phone). Then the trees began falling. (We had eleven fall – seven in the yard and four directly on the house) The large one that fell on the bed was stopped in the bathroom…. by a fallen door. I could not and cannot thank God enough. It is only through his loving grace that Summer survived this direct hit. A door. God works in mysterious ways. He used a door to save my beloved daughter’s life. As Summer said herself, how could anyone witness the damage and destruction in her neighborhood with NO INJURIES and not believe in God?

So many lost so much yesterday. Material objects can be replaced; I do not care about the loss of my house, our camper, our shed, our car… Replaceable. I thank God for the gift of more time with my daughter; she is irreplaceable.