The Duncan Banner


April 14, 2013

Recovery appears on target for Tuscaloosa

DUNCAN — It was nearly two years ago – April 27, 2011, to be exact – an EF5 tornado ripped through my hometown of Tuscaloosa,  killing 64 people, causing billions of dollars in property damage, uprooting lives, inflicting immeasurable emotional stress and changing forever the college community of nearly 100,000 people in west Alabama.  

A windshield driving tour then was devastating. Parts of the city I once knew so well were gone, literally. Destruction was visible everywhere, the tornado’s path a mile wide, vicious, mean and angry.

Homes, businesses, churches and schools were all affected. Blue rooftop tarps, a growing symbol of disaster, seemed everywhere. Piles of debris and rubble hugged street curbs. Twisted metal and splintered wood were common. Driveways led to empty lots once home to stunned occupants. Cars and trucks were upside down.   Large, old oak trees and tall, skinny pines were expunged from the earth, snapped in two, ripped into pieces or simply eliminated from a once beautiful landscape that dramatically changed, exposing views hidden by years of foliage growth and maturity.  

It was, simply, hard to believe. Staggeringly and tearfully so.  Much has happened since that fateful day. Life has resumed to a pace of new normalcy that if not universally good, is certainly better.  

A similar tour last week oozed of pride and hope, of recovery and resilience Tuscaloosa, as one hard hit neighborhood committed months ago, is coming back. The cold, concrete slabs that outline what used to be are still visible. Subdivisions remain shattered. Backyard views have been altered. Orange triangular “work ahead” signs remain. Acres of land that once were home to dozens of middle class houses near the 36,000-student university and 583-bed hospital that were both spared by the storm, are vacant. Stark, limbless trees are a reminder of what was. A corridor of power poles eerily marks an otherwise empty boulevard that once bustled with activity and commerce. A steel fabricating plant is no more. Neither is a woodworking plant. Or the city’s first ever shopping center. Or a school. Or a church. And dozens of homes are still in various forms of repair. But there is, again, optimism.  

A city-wide plan to make Tuscaloosa better seems to be working. Good, long-term goals and decisions are a priority. Historic preservation maintains a significant value. Quality construction guidelines have been upgraded. Neighborhoods are. Life seems more precious, time more valuable, friendships more special. Though some pockets of the city have fared better and more quickly than others, the beginnings of a new history and a new heritage are starting to fall in place.  

For the most part, those tarps and piles of rubble are gone. The sounds of chain saws have dulled. Signs of recovery and improvement are everywhere.  Waist- and shoulder-high azaleas, dogwoods and wisteria are in full bloom. Tiny trees, anchored by coded wires, won’t replace the missing majestic oaks, but they signal the commitment to a long future.  

So does work in The Downs, Glendale Gardens. Hillcrest, Wood Manor, Forest Lake, Cedar Crest, The Highlands and Alberta City, names foreign to you, but areas of charm and distinction there, each brimming not only with personality but determination. Some stately, columned homes survived. Others did not.  The Central Church of Christ is building back bigger than ever. So is Alberta Baptist, whose new complex will energize a particularly hard hit area. Work is under way at University Place Elementary. A two-story windowless Masonic Lodge nears completion and it appears Wings of Grace Relief Center and Nehemiah’s Coffee House are now part of Forest Lake Baptist’s ministry. A small, but lovely and centralized, lake is full of water again, though most of the homes that once surrounded it are gone. Playground equipment is back in place at a neighborhood park.  

Upscale residences atop trendy retail stores will replace a worn shopping center. Multiple apartment buildings for students are being built. Large, prestigious homes may have lost their privacy but not their appeal. And scattered, makeshift signs hint of more recovery. My beloved Tuscaloosa took an incredible hit and learned sadly there are few things more powerful, more destructive or more painful than a killer tornado.  

But there is obvious strength, too, in unity and togetherness.  Seeing and sensing that is impressive.

                                                                       580-255-5354, Ext. 130

Text Only
  • Modern version of ‘Telephone’ hangs up on the truth

    Couple weeks ago, I stopped at a popular morning spot to get a caffeine infusion and encountered a meeting of a chapter of the Coffee Club Geniuses of America.

    July 20, 2014

  • taylor.armerding.jpg Zamperini, the Olympian and POW, was a hero because of his faith

    Louis Zamperini collected many accolades as an Olympic distance runner and brave bombardier who spent a month adrift at sea and two years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp. But faith and forgiveness are what truly distinguished him.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sheriff's helicopter could be put to good use in water crisis

    A story the other day in which Stephens County Sheriff Wayne McKinney explained the advantages of having a helicopter gave me a chuckle.

    July 15, 2014

  • Technoman offers help on combating viruses

    Good day, Earthlings and others inhabiting the third rock from the Sun. Once again, 21st Century Technoman has dropped in to see what condition your condition is in. So, how are you surviving in cyberspace?

    July 15, 2014

  • Territory impressive as well

    For the next seven days, the world of golf will focus on Edmond, Oklahoma in general and Oak Tree National in particular as the revitalized club and course hosts the prestigious 2014 U.S. Senior Open.

    July 6, 2014

  • Our division is not as dire as some insist

    Am having an Independence Day hangover — and no, it’s not because of any libation I may have consumed during the holiday weekend.

    July 6, 2014

  • Election shared few surprises

    There were no significant surprises or huge upsets in last Tuesday’s election,  but there were some twists and turns of interest locally and statewide.

    June 29, 2014

  • Other voices talk about us and our nation

    It’s almost Independence Day and I could wind philosophic and poetic about this country I love and into which I was lucky to have been randomly spawned.

    June 29, 2014

  • Technoman is relishing art of daydreaming

    Friends and neighbors, greetings again from 21st Century Technoman, and please forgive me if it seems I’ve been ignoring those of you who need a little human contact in their otherwise techno-dependent lives.

    June 22, 2014

  • However dubious, Cooter is a famous American

    His name is indelibly etched in the American experience. For generations, his reputation has crossed political, social, ethnic and regional lines.

    June 15, 2014


Should the date for The World's Largest Garage Sale be changed from the third weekend in July to sometime in October to take advantage of cooler weather like we had this past weekend?

No. It's better in the summer cause kids are out of school.
Yes. More shoppers would come during nice fall weather.
Either time is fine.

     View Results

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.