Hard to believe it's been ten years. April 27th, 2011...one of those days where most people know exactly where they were and how they felt. We had been tracking the potential impact for three to four days before that day. After 37 years of covering storms, hurricanes, ice events...something about this one just felt different. I remember checking in with JP Dice at Fox6 that morning...and he sent me a text message as I recall saying he was deeply concerned. And JP is not an alarmist...so this was concerning to me.
We prepped the team of everyone covering the storm and like everyone else waited and prayed it would not be as bad as what most feared. We were wrong.
I clearly remember being on the air and looking up and watching the TV in the Bull control room. It's always on Fox6...so as I am watching it was almost like watching something in a movie. This massive storm was over downtown Tuscaloosa...and having spent five years at The Capstone...I knew exactly where the storm was and could clearly (in m mind) imagine the destruction it was creating as the storm ripped thru Tuscaloosa. My heart sank. I remember this feeling of grief and hopelessness for all those impacted. But I really couldn't stop and process...we had a job to do so I did my best to stay focused give updates and as the warnings began to impact Jefferson County, we flipped to wall to wall coverage with JP and Wes.
As the storm moved into Pleasant Grove I remember JP saying it's headed up the 59 corridor and into downtown Birmingham. I began to think about my wife and kids and their safety and the safety of our staff. I recall comforting a staff member crying in the hall that day...she had never experienced a tornado.
At one point I looked out the windows of our studios (which overlook downtown) and it was black. I couldn't see anything and then all of the sudden I saw objects...shingles, wood debris engulfing our building. It was a debris field and then I heard the windows on the control room begin to suck inward...it was that point I knew it was time to go.
We left Fox6 audio on air as we ran to safety. I remember yelling at Jim Faherty our news director, "Jim, time to go!" We ran down five flights of stairs to basement of our building. I texted my wife, "I love you." only to find the text wouldn't send. I thought great... I may die and she didn't hear from me. :)
About 10 minutes later, the debris field cleared and we ran back upstairs. We were spared but it was so much worse for so many others.
I won't lie...anytime we think the weather will be really bad I always get a sick feeling in my stomach and remember how helpless I felt on April 27th, 2011.
But I also think how I was blessed to survive. And today ten years later, that is what my focus is.
To those who grieve this day for family and friends, my God's peace be with you today.
Photo Credit: Getty Images