Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tuscaloosa Tornado, Part Five

We gave instructions to Hank and the college kids - yeah, we found them again. We were all going to grab necessities from our apartments, only what we could carry, and meet back in the parking lot. Food, water, clothes. Derek and I decided to split again - he would pack our things, and I would check on the cars. My heart clenched as we separated, but I was grateful for something constructive to do that wouldn’t require much thinking. I just hoped I would have good news for him.

I made it back to the parking lot on our side of the building and got some instant heartburn. Cars were not where they had been parked. Trees and power lines were down. And there was more of that damned barbed wire. I looked for our cars. I almost missed them from not recognizing them. The windows had all been shattered, they had wooden beams on top, tree limbs inside. My car had the shell of an AC unit on it. Shit.

But as I got closer I realized we were lucky. Both of our cars were free from other cars – not everyone could say that. If they turned on and if I could get all the crap off of them, we should be able to get out. Other cars had been shoved into each other and wouldn’t be getting out anytime soon. I got to the Matrix and reached my arm in through glass to turn the ignition. It started. I almost cried in relief. The tightness in my chest released a little. I turned it back off and went to my Camry. We just bought it last week. I maneuvered my way in and turned the key. It started too. Holy hallelujah! I got out and began pulling tree limbs and boards out from under and off the top of the cars. I shoved the AC unit away and tossed pieces of roof into the grass. I would have sat down and giggled if it weren’t for a second tornado and glass being everywhere.

It was 6:45PM. I ran to find the guys and get them the hell out of there.

They were in the stairwell below our apartment talking to one of the neighbors. Derek offered them a ride, but the neighbors declined. The college kids had a working car so they took off on their own. Hank rode shotgun with me in the Camry and Derek led the way in the Matrix. As we were readying to leave, 3 firefighters (I think) arrived and asked for the area status. They thought we were search and rescue as well. Derek told them what we had found so far and let them know that we were leaving. We asked if they knew anything about a second storm, but they did not. As we got into the cars, they told us there was no way we were going to be able to drive out of there. Well, we were still going to try. Backing out of my ‘parking spot’ I realized my arm was bleeding. I cut myself on some glass without realizing it. It wasn't a bad cut but it kept dripping onto my pants. I thought about it and realized it had been about 13 years since my last tetanus shot. Oh well.

As I said, Derek led the way out. As we were turning the corner of the parking lot, the Matrix got snagged on some barbed wire. After a struggle, the car was freed and we continued on. Thus began the two and a half hour journey to get us a mere four miles away to the shelter of the UA Recreation Center. The route we took was clogged with traffic and winding as every North-South road in the city had been blocked from fallen trees, destroyed buildings, downed power lines and more. We actually had to drive all the way to Kicker Road in Alberta City and then go back around to get the Rec. Alberta City was hit even harder than Tuscaloosa, but somehow that road was clear enough.

Driving around, our way was frequently blocked by shiny cars with uninjured people who invariable called out to us in their excitement - “Did that just happen to your car?? Is that from the tornado??” Teens and adults alike swarmed the streets in titillation to see the annihilation of their neighbors lives. Not one of them was out there to help. Every one of them was blocking the way of emergency vehicles and evacuees. With every second they stood in the way with their cameras, mouths gaping and eyes wide doing nothing, someone was dying or in pain because help couldn’t get through. It’s a damn good thing I don’t carry a gun. I almost wish the second tornado really had hit so every one of those self centered, mindless bastards would know exactly what it felt like to have their world destroyed. That’s what they were so anxious to see after all.

1 comment:

  1. I happened across your blog while searching for info about other Charleston Square residents. I lived in 122 (now more easily identified as the last hole on the right), but I was at work downtown during the tornado. I wish you and your husband the best of luck as you resettle.