Alabama Athletics: On Championships, Tornadoes and Two Years Ago


Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

It’s an old saying that the worst disasters bring out the best in people. That phrase applies to many of the disasters that America has faced. From 9/11 terror attacks to the Virginia Tech shootings and even the recent Boston Bombings, one thing is in common: We see a side of people we don’t normally see. People who are normally enemies help each other. Strangers help strangers. People do things that they wouldn’t normally do. It’s always refreshing to see that, even in the darkest moments in life, we see the general good of human beings.

To me, the April 27th, 2011 tornadoes that tore through Alabama were that kind of disaster. I’m not going to divulge my story of where I was when it happened, how I felt, what I did after etc. as it is way too long for me to bring up here. Long story short, it was my first day as an intern at local Tuscaloosa television station WVUA-TV. This is a glimpse into what I saw (this ending is color bars and glitchy, it’s when had a complete power loss):

43 people died in Tuscaloosa from the powerful EF-4 tornado that ripped through the town. The property and structural damage that was done was catastrophic in many areas, especially in the Alberta City community. Thankfully, I was spared and so was my apartment, but so many others weren’t as lucky.

Shortly after, however, you saw the good in people. Many were setting up food distribution centers, offering their homes as shelters and just bringing general comfort to those that wanted it. The outpouring of support from other cities and states to help rebuild was so overwhelming, we started listing exactly what we needed because got an overabundance of many items. We were doing our best to bring a state of normality to a town that was full of chaos.

It’s no secret, the residents of Tuscaloosa love Alabama Crimson Tide sports, especially during football season. So when football season did roll around following the tornado that nearly flattened our town, it was refreshing for many to see something normal and exciting happen. Sure, it was Kent State, a team that stood little to no chance of beating Alabama in Bryant-Denny Stadium and it turned out to be a 48-7 blowout, but it was just good to see football again. There was even a houndstooth ribbon painted on the field all season to remember the victims. But remember when I said that the worst disasters bring out the best in people? That phrase had no exception to Alabama.

Alabama would eventually capture it’s 14th national title and it’s second in three years by defeating LSU 15-0. That was a very redeeming moment for Crimson Tide fans, especially those who live in Tuscaloosa. To see the city’s team come out from the rubble and demolition that the tornadoes brought and come out on top was the best feeling in the world. They didn’t just bring a championship back to T-Town; they brought hope. That year, the best was brought out of the football team. But that wouldn’t be the first time of the Athletics year we would see moments like that.

Alabama gymnastics captured it’s first consecutive title and it’s sixth total by defeating 5 other teams with a score of 197.850. The women’s golf team secured it’s first title and the university’s first non-football/gymnastics title in school history. Finally, the women’s softball team defeated the Oklahoma Sooners in the third game of the Women’s College World Series to secure Alabama’s and the SEC’s first national title. All of these teams came out of the disaster of the April 27th tornadoes and became the best they can be. While championships don’t undo the damage that the tornado made and can’t bring back lives, they bring encouragement to a town that loves their team.

Now, two years after the disaster, the rebuilding continues. Most of the rubble and trash have been cleaned up. Many businesses have returned or are returning to the town, with some new places popping up around the 15th street area. New houses and apartments are being built and jobs are being created. While there is still a lot of work to be done, I can report that the process of rebuilding is going strong, but steady. Hopefully, by the time the out-of-town Alabama football fans come back to Tuscaloosa on September 21st, they will see improvements from a town that was flattened 2 years ago.

And who knows? A third consecutive title couldn’t hurt. After all, we are 125 days away from kickoff.

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