Paul DeMarco: Looking back on the April 27 tornadoes that united our community

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As we approach the four-year anniversary of the April 27 tornadoes, there will be a lot of tears shed for those who lost family and friends. We will recall the devastation that took both home and business away from individuals. Memories will last a lifetime for all of us here during the weeks and days as people and communities began to put their lives back together.

I recall touring the devastation the next day in Hueytown, Pleasant Grove and throughout West Jefferson wondering how we could ever recover.

I am thankful we live in a state where people did not simply wait on help from Washington, D.C. Instead, it was our local people and first responders who did the heavy lifting.

It was the outpouring of support from our citizens and our churches that carried the day during the time when recovery efforts were so critical. It was an immeasurable number of meals served by our local church communities to those in need. While police and fire were in the search-and-rescue mode, the local churches stood as safe havens for people to rest, to sleep and to eat.

Then as the days became weeks it became even more important for the entire community pitch in to help those in need. We all have stories from that tragic day, but the one I can never shake is a positive one.

In the days after the tornadoes, I had talked to the mother, a leader of a local Girl Scout Troop from Homewood that had not been affected by the storms. The girls, about 7 or 8 years old, wanted to do their part to help and they did. They collected household and personal hygiene items like toothpaste, soap and shampoo to donate.

After they had collected boxes of items we took a caravan to meet Jefferson County District Judge Eddie Vines. He led the crew of girls to Pleasant Grove where they donated their goods to help in the recovery.

That story could be repeated hundreds of times as we recount all of the folks who volunteered their time, donated both goods and services or simply prayed for those in need.

When we remember those days, we have a lot to be thankful for in those days of tragedy. I am thankful we live in a state where the people take care of each other, a place where neighbor is always there for their neighbor.

Paul DeMarco is a former Alabama state representative

This guest editorial originally ran in The Western Star. Republished with permission.

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