DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Camilla Lennarth said it felt like the set of a movie. She walked out of Alabama’s Bryant Hall to observe the damage surrounding their Tuscaloosa campus and stood in shock. Tornadoes are a foreign concept to Swedes. Truly, though, no one was prepared for such destruction.
Alabama assistant coach Susan Rosenstiel said the 360-degree view of devastation that stretched as far as the eye could see was stunning. Rosenstiel watched the dazed residents of the Alberta City neighborhood push shopping carts down the road, children and possessions stuffed inside.
“They sat on the side of the road, trying to figure out where to go,” she said.
Coaches and players are wearing ’Bama ribbons this week at the NCAA East Regional in honor of the storm’s victims. A violent tornado was headed straight toward the heart of campus April 27 but took a sudden turn. Many off-campus houses and apartments were wiped out. Of the more than 300 deaths in six states, at least 236 fatalities were in Alabama. No Crimson Tide golfers were injured.
Earlier that Wednesday, the Tide had played nine holes. Head coach Mic Potter thought it would be a good idea to play in the wind in preparation for the postseason in Florida and Texas. He took a radar with him to monitor the storm. Players left the course, went home to gather up their books, and headed to the Academic Center, considered one of the safest areas on campus.
Final exams were scheduled earlier this week but, in light of the storms, the university gave students two options. They could keep their pre-tornado grades, or schedule final exams later in the summer. Graduation was pushed back to Aug. 6. Potter’s team chose to skip finals and keep their grades. That allowed the Tide to fly out of Tuscaloosa on Sunday.
When asked if it was a mental relief to leave the state, Potter said he had mixed emotions.
“You’d like to be there helping and volunteering,” he said. “But at the same time, the best thing the girls can do is represent the university and try to bring something positive.”
There are several ways to donate to the Tuscaloosa community. The UA Acts of Kindness Fund has been established to provide support for UA employees and students: http://bit.ly/uaactsofkindness. The website also lists other ways to help. Or simply text 50555 to donate $10.