Friday, April 27, 2012

Alabama: One Year Later

Written by Anita Foster, chief communications officer, American Red Cross North Texas Region

One year ago today, I was enjoying a lovely dinner at Dallas' famed "Celebration Restaurant" with my colleague, Vicki Eichstaedt, from the Red Cross in Kalamazoo, Michigan. We had spent the previous two weeks working on the Texas Wildfires out near Possum Kingdom Lake and having finished that operation, we made our way back to Dallas for a good meal before Vicki caught a flight back to Michigan. But then the phone rang and we knew that the lives of thousands of people, and ours, would never be the same.

On the other end of that phone call was our team from national headquarters reporting that a massive tornado outbreak was underway across the south. All we knew at the time was that the tornadoes were huge, they were on the ground in multiple locations and the University of Alabama was directly in the path. We did not know if our colleagues in Alabama were safe. 

Moving the bread basket to the side, we made a work station at our table and took copious notes about what was known and then we made our travel plans to get to Alabama first thing in the morning. 

When we arrived, we were surrounded by the costliest outbreak that the Unites States has seen. And one of the costliest natural disasters in the country’s history.

One year later, I still think about the people of Alabama. Their losses were impossible to comprehend.
But it's important to take a look at this outbreak as a looming warning of what Mother Nature can unleash. 

We shot this video from Phil Campbell and Hackleburg, Alabama last year. I said in the beginning that I just didn't have words to describe what we were seeing then. I would say the same today. There simply aren't words that can explain what these precious people experienced on this terrible day one year ago. Let's take a look back:

In the aftermath of the storms, the Red Cross provided nearly 8,000 overnight shelter stays, served more than 1.4 million meals and snacks, and distributed nearly 27,000 cleanup kits and approximately 40,000 comfort kits. More than 10,000 homes sustained damage. 

Having just gone through a widespread outbreak right here in the DFW area, I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we count our blessings. While property was lost in the April 3, 2012 Metroplex outbreak, lives were not. That was not the case in Alabama so in memory of this significant day in history, I ask you to do two things today. 

1.) Keep the people of Alabama in your heart. Hundreds of families are experiencing the first anniversary of the deaths of their loved ones. 

2.) Prepare yourself and your family for the next round of storms by building your disaster kit. It can save your life.

When our phones ring at the Red Cross, we simply never know what we'll face on the other side. In the case of Alabama, it was truly one of the most chilling phone calls, followed by one of the most heartbreaking disaster scenes I've ever witnessed. But in true American spirit, the love and compassion from the people of Alabama and beyond created hope for everyone else. 

Blessings to the people of Alabama. 

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