It's 3:30am and I am wide awake remembering 4/27/11. I had talked to my dad just before leaving work that day. He and my sis were holed up in our neighbor's basement and my mom was on high alert at the hospital in Fayette. They were bracing for another storm heading their way from MS.
My grandmother was in the Cullman hospital and no one knew if they had been hit yet (land lines had been down across the state since that morning). Pictures were coming in of a large tornado on the ground very near the hospital campus. Her house and hometown of Hanceville had already been damaged earlier that day by the first line of storms.
I rushed home and turned on my computer, desperate to hear more news of my family and friends back home. I wasn't home 10 minutes when the first live shots of the monster tornado approaching Tuscaloosa were captured. Brandon and I began calling, texting, and Facebook-ing our many many friends in the town we still call home - hoping to warn them to safety. We watched together, helpless and praying, as it tore through Ttown.
I cannot think of a time when I've ever been more afraid or more desperate to help only to know there was nothing I could do. I still have nightmares about that day - and I wasn't even there! My heart goes out to my friends and the many others who lived through the horror of that day in Tuscaloosa, Berry, Cullman, Hanceville, and too many other places across my sweet home Alabama.
Since that day, I have never been more proud of my home state and her people. They have come to exemplify Jesus's command to love your neighbor as yourself. Yes, Alabama has been in the spotlight in a negative way several times this year because of a handful of politicians and their decisions, making it easy for outsiders to think exactly the opposite of our state. But I believe the true heart of Alabama is what has been seen in every helping hand since April 27, 2011. The kindest, most thoughtful, loving, and self-sacrificing people live in the Heart of Dixie. And whether I live in Texas, Toledo, or Timbuktu I will always say with pride, "My home's in Alabama, no matter where I lay my head."