Concord woman recalls tornado

CONCORD, AL (WBRC) - The day of April 27, 2011 was kind of a strange day.  I work in Bessemer at a law office.  We heard it was the day of horrible tornadoes but did not take it lightly because even though it was getting bad up in Cullman and North Alabama, it was sunny where we were.  While everybody else was closing early, we stayed open.  Around 4:00, we finally decided to go home.  The clouds had taken over that sunny sky and it just felt wicked outside.  I had got home to my home on Concord Highland Drive around 4:30, turned on the television and saw that huge tornado in Tuscaloosa.  I had then called my mom who lived on Masters Road.  I told her would her and my dad want to come to my house since I have a partially underground basement.  She did not want to leave their house, plus my dad had not gotten home from work yet so I loaded up Julio (my dog) and we headed over there, not even a minute away from my house.  Mom called my dad urgently telling him to get on home.  He works at Piggly Wiggly in McCalla, which at first, we thought where that tornado in Tuscaloosa was heading (down 459).  He was already heading home and made it home around 5:15.  When we saw we had a high risk of it hitting our area, we called my twin brother, Kenny, who works at Winn Dixie in Hueytown pleading for him to leave work and come to Mom's.  Thankfully, he decided to stay there where they had taken all customers and employees in the store to the back of the store.

As the time he says this, my dad looks out the downstairs den window, and sees it 100 yards away, like a huge night sky.  At this time, we had already pulled the spare room bed mattress off and had it ready, gotten my parent's dog, Skippy, out of the garage and inside, put him in the spare room next to us and darted in the downstairs bathroom and threw the mattress on top of us (me next to the wall which was next to the garage, Julio, my dog, underneath me, my mom in the middle and my dad by the bathroom door.  First thing, the power went out.  You could hear the wind approaching.  I am crying, praying, holding on to dear life of the mattress and my dog.  My dad is pretty much holding the mattress himself over us.  All I could hear was my mom and dad praying, I was in so in the zone I do not even remember what people call "the train noise or roar".  I just felt wind, dampness and the cries of my parents.  You could feel the mattress about to go.  They say it lasted 20 seconds.  It felt more like 20 minutes.  I just remember crying to my dad if it doesn't hurry on and pass, we are goners.  My dad kept getting up.  My mom and I kept saying please get back under the mattress but, now we know, he had stuff that had fallen on his leg and was trying to get untrapped.  As we finally felt it moving on, we knew we had survived.  I could hear my mom and dad's voice.  At first, my wild, usually obnoxious Julio, was dead still.  I thought I had crushed him or something did but he was just in shock.  The toilet had started to fall on my foot, luckily only bruising it.  As we dug ourselves out from underneath the mattress and the rubble around and on top of us, there we were, our house completely crumbled, blown away.  Skippy, my parents dog we had put in the spare room, was nowhere to be found.  My dad screamed, panicked, we all did.  We heard something move from the wood and bricks around us and Skippy had come crawling from underneath the rubble.  He was stuck so my dad lifted a huge piece of metal and there he came, only with a crushed paw.  First people we see running towards us was our next door neighbors Gary and Barbara Foster, and their son, Chad.  All alright!!! Barbara was bleeding all over her face.  Come to find out later, she had a broke foot and broke nose.  It was like waking from a nightmare but to a nightmare.  People screaming everywhere.  Yelling because they have lost loved ones, searching because they can't find loved ones.  Mom had no shoes but luckily, Gary found her some house shoes in the rubble.  Our cars all destroyed or crushed. My granddad also lives on Concord Highlands Drive a few houses before mine right above Concord Highland Baptist Church.  We could see half of his house from our neighborhood, but the other house was destroyed.  Praying he was still alive, we did not know.  We lost one neighbor, Ernie Mundi, with many injured.  After finding out we were okay, my dad slowly tried to make his way up to my grandad's but never could make it to the top of the hill.  We finally gathered our dogs and headed out to where we could call my brother, then not knowing if it had hit Hueytown or not.  We walk to Steve's Grocery which was still standing but destroyed, where everyone was going for help.  Still no service or the lines were busy.  We then  had no other option but to just keep walking until we could get a signal.  As we were walking, along with other victims, people heading out in cars/trucks were yelling to find somewhere safe there was another one coming, the last thing we wanted to hear.  Luckily, it just rained and thundered.  We finally walked about 2 miles to a Skateland where luckily, my cousin and her daughter were heading to us and saw us standing there.  We then all loaded up and went to my aunt's where my brother met us, where we also found out my granddad was ok.  My cousin Rodney and his roommate Willy had got to my granddad where his lady friend Toby had been over there with him stuck in the basement.  My granddad never made it to the basement but had gotten underneath his kitchen table, luckily the end of his house that remained standing.  They are both okay.  

That tornado affected 3 households of our family that night.  My mom and dad, who lost everything, and at the end of all of this, maybe came out with 3 or 4 big black garbage bags worth of things, most of it destroyed by insulation, my granddad who pretty much lost everything and my house which I didn't even get to until a couple of days after because of the National Guard and cadaver dogs out searching for people, they would not let us through.  My house is unlivable at the moment, but it is still where I can get in and get my belongings.  I had tons of trees in my yard and every single one of them fell.  Luckily, we all have insurance.  My parents have decided not to rebuild.  The hardest thing is going over into that neighborhood.  My house is going to be repaired, but it is going to be a slow and long process. At the moment, we are all staying with my brother, who lives in my late great grandmother's two bedroom one bath home.  We have always been a close family, but this has brought us even closer.  God is so good.  I have never been through such a traumatic experience in my life.  I believe I can conquer every fear I have from here on out.  God has a plan because I do not know how we survived that thing.  Through all of this, so much good has come.  We have had TREMENDOUS help from our church family, family, friends and even strangers.  People are so good.  I gained a boyfriend out of it, Kevin.  He is a Hueytown Firefighter and even though we had been dating on and off throughout this whole year, the storm brought us together and he has saved me.    

"Fear can keep us up all night, but faith makes one fine pillow."  This is a day that has changed our lives forever but we must stay strong, keep our faith and put it in God's hands because he will never give us more than we can handle.  God bless each and every person affected by this storm and the ones that have hit other states in the past few weeks.  

Love, Jessica Wilson from Concord Alabama