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 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!
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