All the things left behind

On my walk around the neighborhood tonight, I found the following tornado debris: insulation, wood shrapnel, roof shingles, KFC receipt from Skyland Blvd in Tuscaloosa, a lease from 1996 for an apt at 800 20th street in Tusc., a tax return from a Schmon Ruffin, a receipt from Tuscaloosa Realty, pg 9 of 15 of "Exhibit B" with tank prices on it, and the Jesus bracelet. According to the KFC receipt they bought a pot pie, mac and cheese, and a 12 piece mix box. — My friend Eileen Kiernan, who lives in Birmingham, Alabama.


  1. When the 1989 tornado hit Huntsville, my Grandmother and I were supposed to go to Airport Rd shopping. We didn’t when the weather turned mean. Two hours later and we were hiding in the interior of her house from funnel clouds. Having grown up in Alabama and living in Georgia now, we all know the deal. Spring means tornadoes. Yesterday though, that puts the fear of the gods in you. When you see 3 tornadic cells go over the same area within two hours and you have family there, it’s utterly paralyzing. The only thing I can say is that the people of North Alabama always pick up and go on. You mourn the loss and go on because life, sadly, doesn’t stop. And from having ridden out 3 hurricanes in FL in 2004 and having been out of power multiple days, that is going to be awful. Huntsville is being told 4 – 7 days without power.

  2. Nearly 3 weeks ago, my aunt and uncle had their farm wiped out by a tornado. Leveled. Strange stuff found: a quarter embedded in a tree, part of the christmas tree about half a mile away in a field, birth certificate in a town 60 miles away, 6 $1 bills, but none of the other denominations that were in the same jar. Still haven’t found the refrigerator or the bathtub. They were hit by twin tornados. No injuries, but they lost everything.

    I feel for those down in the south. They’ve got a tough, emotionally and physically back-breaking time ahead.

    I still can’t believe how many died… I wonder if sirens and warnings worked properly?

    1. The sirens and warnings were going the entire time. Every radio station and television station was broadcasting warnings. People knew it was coming. You just go to the center of your house, sit in the bathtub, and hope you get lucky.

      1. That’s actually something important to point out for people who live in more northerly tornado zones. Alabama has a 2 in. frostline, which means you don’t have to dig way down just to put in the foundations of a house anyway, so it’s not really the norm to build houses with basements. I don’t know whether being in a basement compared to a windowless bathroom makes much of a difference on survival in a direct hit, but it’s something to consider here.

        1. I know when I was working for a homebuilder in Tennessee, we didn’t put in basements because it was all rock. We were lucky to get crawl spaces in on some lots. It used to creep me out when we’d get tornado warnings in our house there cause the bathroom was the only safety spot, unlike our house in Michigan with its basement.

        2. I live in Tuscaloosa. My house caught the corner of the tornado so were not bad however, my friends house suffered a direct hit. Their house has 3 large pine trees in it but all in all they’re OK. The houses down the block however are not so great. One of them has a basement and that’s all that’s left of the house, the central rooms where you would normally go are literally piles of rubble. This same scene is repeated all over the city. I’d say just from what I’ve seen being in a basement makes a huge difference.

  3. maggie, thanks for posting this. i found schmon on facebook and sent him a message last night. hopefully he’s okay.

  4. I live in Tuscaloosa too. We were lucky, no damage – we didn’t even loose electricity. This morning I helped friends pack things in an area that was highly impacted. There is not a single wall in the house without damage. They were lucky to have a basement.

    The University has cancelled finals week and May graduation. Despite a rather abrupt end to classes, some students at the School of Library and Information Studies created a guide for those interested in helping:

  5. The lack of basements was probably a direct cause of the high number of fatalities. For some tornadoes, the only way to survive a hit is to be in a basement or a storm shelter.

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