It was three years ago when so many lives were lost, so many lives hurt, and so many lives changed. One person who experienced all three is former Alabama football player Carson Tinker.
Today, Carson is on the road to recovery, but the road travelled has been a rocky one.
Tinker says people always ask him why it happened or why him. "Honestly, I never did because from day one I knew that there was a reason. So many people reached out to me. My teammates obviously, my family, my coaches, my training staff. I mean, strangers - people I had no idea who they are and will never have any idea who they are. Instead of asking why, I had to ask what - what do you want me to learn from this? Where are we going to go from here?"
What possibly could a young man learn from such tragedy? April 27, 2011 - an Alabama football star couldn't hang on. His girlfriend Ashley Harrison would be swept from his arms. Carson Tinker's life was turned upside down as his girlfriend was lost, his life spared.
According to Tiner, "Everybody says they trust in God, but I mean, do you trust that God put you through the hard times to make you better? That's something that I trusted. I spent five days in the hospital and during those five days I made a decision that I was going to buy in, that this was part of God's plan. Jeremiah 29:11, 'I've got a plan for you, not to harm but to prosper', but the word "easy" is never in that verse."
Nothing it seemed would come easy. What was left in his life that spring of 2011? What Carson had was family, friends, teammates and coaches.
"You either live in vision or you live in circumstance. What I went through was circumstance. I literally went through a storm, but we all have storms in our lives: Family issues, sickness, financial issues, everybody has a circumstance of some sort, but you have to live in vision," said Tinker.
As Carson slowly climbed back, God would give Carson another gift that helped him heal.
"I met Annie about nine or ten months after the tornadoes. We were friends, and it just grew from there. Then last September we got engaged. I really feel like God put her in my life. She's a strong woman, strong in her faith, and she's a huge part of where I am today," said Tinker.
And another way Carson has found peace? His new book, "A Season to Remember: Faith in the Midst of the Storm" chronicles tragedy, healing, a national championship season and his NFL team, the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tinker said, "My mantra has been, people ask for blessings but I ask that I can be a blessing. And that's something I felt like I really had an opportunity to do in writing a book. So many people reached out to me and helped me get through my tough times and I just saw it as an opportunity to give back."
Still, April 27th arrives each and every year with memories that are slow to fade. "Everyone loves to, you know, ask questions like that 'Are you sad', uh, no man, what happened happened and I've learned so much from it," Tinker said.
How can a young man who has suffered so insist that he's truly blessed? From a support staff that consists of family, friends, a fiance and his football friends, Tinker can smile again. "That's the cool thing about being part of a football team is it's a brotherhood, we're just one big family. Even in the NFL, I mean those guys still have problems with what they are going through too. I've been able to help them and have an impact on their lives, too, which I think is really cool."
Blessed? You bet. Carson Tinker has responded with a strengthened faith, a deeper appreciation of family friends and teammates, and a bright football future. For three years, Tinker has shown his faith in the midst of the storm, and he's not done sharing his gift. "I want to be defined by my vision. I want to be defined by how I responded and it just gives me another opportunity."
Copyright 2014 WBRC. All rights reserved.