Listening to the Storm #2 "We opened the ambulance door, and there were 12 kids inside."

Apr 24, 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 Dr. Andrew Lee of Tuscaloosa… When the storm first passed, we didn’t really realize the extent of what just happened. Our ER entrance faces to the north, and we looked outside and it was actually a really pretty day, and windy. We didn’t really realize the devastation that happened behind us. Shortly after that, we got the first phone calls about what had happened and expected the arrival of patients. Our first being, three kids, infants, that were in full cardiac arrest; no heartbeat, no respirations. So that sort of set the tone of how severe the tornado had actually been in Tuscaloosa. I remember one of the first ambulance doors we opened, we usually have one patient or maybe two patients inside, we opened the ambulance doors and there are about 12 kids inside this ambulance and one paramedic. And umm, you kind of get taken back when you see an ambulance full like that. She just made the statement, umm, we stopped and opened the doors and this is basically what was handed to us. You ask, “Well who do these kids belong to?” and we don’t know, they just umm parents, good Samaritans, bystanders just handed these kids that were injured to us and you know we brought them to the hospital. So you know, those kind of stick out as things that will always stick with me, just seeing you know, the kids that we dealt with and umm even a lot of the adults that we dealt with. Just seeing the dire need that they were in when they showed up and the amount of people that showed up with each ambulance or each pickup truck load was just overwhelming. I believe that the recovery, what the community has done, the plan, the vision for what they want Tuscaloosa to become after we’ve gone through something like this is outstanding. And I think that the community itself supports that. When you look and think about Tuscaloosa, Alabama they think about our football team and the championships we’ve won but I think that filters down into our community members that we are the town of champions and whatever you put in front of us, we are going to overcome. And I believe that is what Tuscaloosa has done over the past two years.