Introduction, page 4
April 27, 2011, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Forest Lake neighborhood
I needed to figure out what I was personally gonna do. Like, now. Like, right now, tonight. I went back in my house, checked on the pets, and stood in my backyard and tried to call my dad. My phone had almost no charge, and I cursed myself for that. My dad did not answer, so I called my brother to tell him to tell dad I was OK. Signal was bad, but I got through, and I have almost no recollection of the conversation. The whole situation was just too stunning. I do remember him telling me he was on his way down. I didn’t ask, he insisted. Because he’s good like that.
I remember I was having a smoke, and my neighbor told me I should probably not be doing that, because there were gas leaks. When I realized he was right, I also realized I could not stay in my house, which had been my plan. I had one relatively untornadoed room, and thought we would be best hunkering down for the night right there. I had 3 large dogs and 4 cats (one missing), and I didn’t know how we could possibly walk anywhere. The neighbors said they were going to the church on the hill for the night, they had 2 small dogs, but for me and my 200 pounds worth of canine, I knew it would not work for me. But as it started to get dark, it occurred to me that the difficulty walking out would be very much even more complicated in the dark and on fire. Everybody knew if anything (else) really bad happened, we were on our own. We could hear loads of emergency sirens all around, but they were off in the distance and all roads were clearly not passable by ambulance or fire truck. So, don’t break a leg or set the neighborhood on fire. There was no traffic so 2 of the dogs would probably be OK off leash. Until we got somewhere. Where? I did not even know which direction to go. I tried to ask people who were starting to walk through, but all anybody could say was that everything was completely destructed in the direction they were coming from. So, no clear path. I finalized my decision to leave the cats for the night and walk out with the dogs. This was heart-wrenching, I already was missing one kitty, but what else could I do? I promised them I would be right back, and did the best I could to make them safe. I packed my computers and a change of clothes, and headed out with the dogs.
It was slow going. Every single thing was tore up. People were walking down the road bleeding. One guy with a head wound was trying to get to his mother. Another distraught man stopped me and asked if I had seen his dog, he thought maybe since I had dogs if his dog saw us he would have said hi. I came up on an emergency vehicle and was going to ask them which was the best way to go, until I realized they were retrieving bodies. I did not bother them with my little problem. Later, I shuddered every time I saw that house, with the big red X and the R2D2 spray painted above, until it was finally gone.
I made it to Pet Supplies Plus, and could see McFarland Blvd. completely jammed. There was traffic cutting through the parking lot, with no place to go. Red and blue flashing lights were all around, but it was completely dark where I waited. I called a friend to tell her where I was and ask to come get me, I called another friend to come get a dog or 2, and texted another friend outside Tuscaloosa to go on facebook for the first time since I announced I got hit by a tornado, to tell people I was OK. My phone died, so I sat there in the dark for a few hours alone with my dogs. It was the scariest day of my life.