It seems like every reporter in the state, nation took a swing at the relationship between football and recovery in Tuscaloosa. I’m no different. Here’s what appeared on a front pages here and here today.
TUSCALOOSA — Snagged on a splinter high atop a barkless and limbless tree in the Cedar Crest neighborhood, a tattered crimson T-shirt flies like a battered, defiant banner.
It’s a reminder of four months ago when an EF4 tornado ripped apart chunks of this city.
Demolition teams are tearing down the last damaged homes in Cedar Crest, while construction crews rebuild houses on wide grassy fields that not long ago were densely populated cottages and greenery.
Tuscaloosa goes back on display Saturday — with the opening of a new college football season. The barkless tree, the ruins and the reconstruction are reminders from a tornado that claimed 50 of the city’s residents on that dark day of April 27.
More than 101,000 fans will be in Bryant-Denny Stadium for the 11:21 a.m. season-opening game with Kent State University — most of whom will be seeing the city for the first time since the storm.
Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said to prepare for sensory overload.
“There’s not one time I’ve entered our recovery zones and not felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of this disaster, in terms of what it’s done to the landscape of Tuscaloosa,” he said. “I hope I never become desensitized to it, because it’s this innate feeling within all of us to try to return normalcy to our city.”
Read the rest here or here.
But since we can’t fit everything in the print edition, the blog becomes a great landing place for the extras. That includes photos. Here is a look at the tree I described in the first few sentences.
Tree in Cedar Crest neighborhood.
For perspective, here’s what Cedar Crest looked like before from a different angle.
As with any story, there’s extra from interviews that don’t fit completely, but are still relevant. Here’s what Tuscaloosa mayor Walt Maddox said was the defining moment for him after the tornado.
“It was April 28 when we were in the Rosedale area and one of our search and rescue teams came upon a deceased child under the rubble. We saw dozens of individuals run to this debris site in an effort to remove all the hazardous material. And they were doing so without any protective clothing.
“And what struck me about it, it was blacks and whites, young and old, Democrats and Republicans. No one cared about the things that too often tends to divide us. For me, that was a very powerful moment because it reflected the real sense of this tragedy, but it also had the confident hope that we could overcome this together. “
Maddox also commented on the support he’s seen from UA alums who contributed a healthy chunk of the 21,000 volunteer hours logged in the city since the storm.
“I’ve been amazed by the efforts of those who attended the University of Alabama who have come back home. … That is such a heart-warming thing to see people give back in such a mighty way. We know we’re not alone and that is a very powerful feeling to have to know that you have friends who are going to be with you when you go down this long, winding road.”
In terms of the rebuilding, click here to view the 170-page PDF document that lays out tentative plans from the city. The full Tuscaloosa Forward website can be found here.
Finally, here’s one more photo that connects football to the tragedy of the tornado perfectly. Taken by Jay Reeves of The Associated Press, you can easily spot Bryant-Denny Stadium in the background.
AP photo by Jay Reeves
But if you look close in the foreground, you’ll see a blank lot between the road running horizontally and the remains of a brick house. That lot was the site of football player Carson Tinker’s house. Click here to read more about that and for more pictures.