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Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 27th...One Year Later...Life Goes On

   One year ago today started out like any normal Tuesday.  At the end of the day I hugged and high-fived all of my students good bye.  I never imagined as I walked my former firsties to their buses or put them in their cars that some of their young lives would change forever... On April 27, 2011 there were 208 EF 5 tornadoes that ripped through the state of Alabama, killing 239 people in my state alone.  Among the many areas devasted that day, the little town I taught in was affected.  The small community of Shoal Creek Valley was basically demolished, and there about 15-20 lives lost.   Many students and teachers at my school lived in the Valley.

   I remember watching the news and worrying about my students.  I couldn't sleep, and I eventually made a list of all the students I could remember that lived in the Valley.  I found out that children at my school were hospitalized along with their families.  Other students had lost their homes.  Other students had lost family members that day.  Driving through the Valley was heartbreaking.  I would see just remnants of a home left and I would think this is where one of my little boys lived or this was the house that one of my little girls lived or I can't imagine how this person survived.  I spent the next several days volunteering at the Red Cross Shelter sorting supplies and helping survivors find what they needed.



   I listened as some survivors wanted to tell their stories and I cried with them.  I saw an elderly couple from Texas come in looking for their daughter and grandchildren that were missing, and I listened as someone told them how to find their missing loved ones.
When it was time to go back to school, I didn't know what to expect.  I knew I had to be strong for my students that were dealing with heartbreak.  I was so nervous, but so happy to see their sweet faces walk into my classroom!  Some of my students did not know anything had happened, while others had heartbreaking stories that would send chills down your back.  I had one little boy that lost his home and he told me over and over what he remembered--and it was always the same word for word.  Even though I knew how his story would end, I listened as if it was the first time he was telling me his story!

   In my classroom we talked about what a tornado was, and we read some books about them.  I had my students write a book about how they knew everything would be ok after the tornado as part of our healing process.  The little boy that constantly repeated his story wrote "He knew everything would be ok because Ms. Newberry still smelled like flowers, and still gave everybody hugs!"  Bless his sweet lil' heart!  I ended up letting him keep the book our class made because it seemed to really help him cope!  He talked to me today about the "nader" as he calls it and still has the book!
   There are still remnants of that fateful April night, the Valley has it's scars and will never be the same.  The students will never be the same.  Every time there is a thunderstorm some of their little faces show fear and they get scared of the bad weather.  Tomorrow will mark one year since so many peoples lives changed forever here in Alabama and other states.  My heart will be with my former students tomorrow as they deal with memories and all kinds of mixed emotions of what they went through one year ago. 

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