Because E-Mealz subscribers are from all over the country, many don’t realize that the origin of E-Mealz began in Alabama. We are headquartered here with most of our staff. This past week has been a very heart-wrenching week for our state with many lives and homes destroyed by the devastating tornadoes that took place last Wednesday.
It is now reported that the number of 28 tornadoes that touched down in Alabama in this 24-hour period is record setting, more than any number in recorded history. The death toll in Alabama alone is now 236 with still many more missing.
The largest of those twisters was an EF-5 that skirted my home by 20 miles. We watched this enormous tornado live on TV as it first ravished Tuscaloosa and then headed straight for Birmingham, where many of us live. Early that morning, smaller tornadoes had already destroyed property in our area, including damage to my home church and one sister’s house. However, the EF-5 tornado that came through later that day was like a massive, dark freight train that completely decimated miles of homes and lives.
E-Mealz went on a small mission on Saturday to a severely devastated area that is closest to my home, Pleasant Grove. With E-Mealz proceeds, my kids and two of their cousins, my Dad’s truck and my SUV, we ventured to Wal-Mart to buy supplies to donate. Here is how this day began and then how it unfolded with images I will never forget.
We got turned away and tried another checkpoint to get through to the damaged area. Lots of trees were down and it looked bad, but then we came upon the obliterated path and wasteland.
This was just one of hundreds of homes. This is NOT a pile of “cleanup debris” that was bulldozed. This is a home – put in a blender then dumped back down in the same spot. This also is NOT a flat field. Birmingham is a sea of rolling foothills with beautiful trees and homes… and this is just one of the many impacted suburbs.
Here is the “before” of this previously densely wooded and well-established neighborhood. We searched for 1205 10th Way on Google Earth.
Here is the “after” – gone. Just red spray paint to identify its spot.
Then we came upon Mr. Cooksey.
We stopped to ask him if this was his home. He immediately welled up and said, “Yes, it’s all gone. Thirty-three years… just like that.”
In this video I am asking him, in disbelief, if he was underneath all that rubble. He, his wife and elderly mom, somehow survived in the basement and crawled out from underneath this massive pile of their shattered house. “The first thing I remember is rain hitting my face. I pulled off the debris and came up to see all this. Just gone.”
Here is some video of my conversation with this dear, hurting man.
I just listened and told him how sorry we were. I asked him how we could help while he wept and told his story… and then said, “Just pray.”
He also said, “I weighed 3 lbs when I was born. I wasn’t supposed to survive then. I shouldn’t have survived this, but somehow by God’s grace I did.” Another image I won’t forget: Mr. Cooksey walking away from his “used-to-be-home” alone and not knowing what to do next. Fortunately, he has family in the area that he will be able to live with.
Pray for Alabama, and pray for Mr. Cooksey and all those like him whose lives have been devastated. E-Mealz will continue to be a part of the relief effort and our hearts and prayers are with all those hurting, those we know and those we don’t know personally.
Thank you too for your prayers.
[Updates from the Sunday edition of the Birmingham News ~ May 8, 2011.
The names and bios of the tornado victims and a University of Alabama student’s harrowing retelling of miraculously surviving the storm.]
If you are interested in helping the the recovery efforts, please visit www.samaritanspurse.org.