A string of four deadly tornadoes ripped through Central Alabama on Sunday leaving in their wake a path of destruction that has claimed both properties and lives.
And while the tornadoes have long dissipated, they leave behind wounds that will take a long time to heal.
In all, 23 people were killed although all those who were initially reported missing have been accounted for. The victims ranged from as young as 6 years old to 89 years old.
Fortunately, Alabama communities are pulling together to help the survivors and those who have lost family members. Apart from members of the community stepping in to financially support funeral expenses, two large corporations have pledged to pay for the funeral costs, says Lee County Coroner Bill Harris.
On Facebook, the Lee County Sheriff’s Office said, “What a wonderful blessing this will be for the families who have lost loved ones! To these corporations we thank you!”
But those left behind are still feeling the pain of loss.
Erroll Reese lost seven family members to the tornadoes and at least 30 more are without homes. He told CNN that 15 of his family members lived on the same street in a lower-middle-class area.
“It’s devastating when you think about it,” Reese said. “I was sitting there just a while ago thinking, ‘How do you handle this, what do you do, who do you reach out to?’ And before I knew it, people were reaching out to me trying to help.”
In the meantime, Makitha Griffin lost five of her loved ones. It includes four aunts and uncles in their 60s and a cousin. Another cousin who was in the house with those who were killed was injured and is in the hospital, said Griffin.
Even so, Griffin still found the time to feed first responders who are searching for the missing and comforting those who lost loved ones.
“Everybody was still family whether they were related or not,” she said. “We gotta help our families.”
At 6 years old, Armando Hernandez was the youngest victim, says Sara Crisp. He was described as “a precious little man that was loved by everyone,” and who “was always eager to give hugs and loved his family,” wrote his aunt Tina Melton in a Facebook post. His cousins Johnathan Marquez Bowen, 9, and Mykala Waldon, 8, also perished.
“When we got there there was a man in a truck, and he jumped out with a chainsaw and started plowing through trees to make a path for my cousin and me to bring our babies to him. He helped with CPR and transport,” cried Shamel Hart, Jonathan’s mother.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Lee County Emergency Management Agency Director Kathy Carson said that there has been an outpouring of offers of assistance.
“We’re here for the citizens. We cannot emphasize enough that we want them to communicate and let us know what they need,” Carson said.
President Trump, who plans to visit Alabama on Friday, said at the White House, “It’s a tragic situation but a lot of work is getting done” tackling the storm damage.
Meanwhile, the Lee County District Attorney’s Office cautioned the public to be careful of donation scams.
In its Facebook page, the office said, “Few things bring out scammers like a natural disaster. Please be careful who you donate money to during these times.”
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