Listening to the Storm #1-- "It was like night of the zombies."

Apr 22, 2013

Alabama Public Radio is collaborating with the Westervelt-Warner Transportation Museum on an oral history exhibit for the second anniversary of the killer tornadoes that tore through our state. The goal is to preserve what survivors saw and heard on April 27, 2011, including Wade Robbins of Tuscaloosa… “I was working at the Dollar Store, and I had just started my night shift. The weather was getting bad, so there were hardly any customers. I looked around, and the lights went off, and I thought to myself…it’s here. And, we went outside and looked out, and from right to left, as far as you could see…the entire…that part of the city was gone. And, we were pointing at things…look at the school…Alberta Elementary School…look at the school, it was practically destroyed. And, I thought, my house is right next to the school. I couldn’t even see it…it was gone. And, my daughter lives right up the street just a block away. And, the first thing that came to my mind…my wife, my daughter, my grandbaby. And I thought the worst…how could they have survived that? And my knee got weak. And I thought I can’t. I can’t break down. I got to go, you know. Everywhere you looked you saw people being pulled out from under their homes, or walking around or laying around with serious injuries. Just…it was just…I don’t mean to be disrespectful…but, it was just like zombies, it was like night of the zombies. But, these people were bleeding, and it was horrible. And, the EMS system and the police, they were overwhelmed. I went up to a policemen who standing on a corner with a shotgun. I said ‘there’s a man down there under a house that needs to be pulled out, and there’s another one over there, and there are people over there who are injured, and what are we supposed to do?’ And, he said ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!’ And, I just looked at him, and he absolutely was overwhelmed, and he didn’t know what to do. He was doing a good job…I’m sure his orders were just to stand there and guard the corner. We’re from the West…we’ve lived in Alabama for twelve years. And our friends say ‘why don’t you move out of there? You’re going through these tornadoes, why don’t you move somewhere else?’ Well, we love Alabama, we love it here, and we don’t want to leave, it’s beautiful here. The people are great. And, the thing is…if you think ahead, if you plan ahead, you can survive these. Because this is the second tornado that’s hit our house. When we lived in Hubbertville, we were hit by an EF-1, and we able to hide in a storm shelter. And, it was storm shelter that I had built and reinforced with concrete and rebar. And, then when we moved to Tuscaloosa, I insisted that we live in a brick house because of the tornadoes. So, you can survive these storms, if you think ahead, if you plan ahead, they are survivable. I just want people to know that.