Hackleburg school community remembers April 27 by looking ahead

Hackleburg school community remembers April 27 by looking ahead
(Source: WBRC video)
(Source: WBRC video)
(Source: WBRC video)
(Source: WBRC video)

HACKLEBURG, AL (WBRC) - As you travel along School Street in Hackleburg, Alabama, you can't help but notice it.

From the outside, it almost looks majestic.

Inside--the halls and classes are just as pristine.

This is the first year students have spent at the new Hackleburg Elementary and High School.

"It's an awesome school. We're grateful to have it," Anna Catherine said.

She was an 11-year-old fifth grader when the storm hit. Her friend, Max Norton, was in 6th grade that year. Now, he's a junior.

"Getting the new school this year was really exciting and helped some of us cope," he said, looking at the new building. "But some of us are still having some problems with it."

Those problems are for those who still struggle with getting over what happened here five years ago.

The town of Hackleburg was one of the hardest hit the afternoon of April 27, 2011, including the town's school, which was flattened.

Principal John Hardin said students were kept home that day because of the potential weather.

He arrived on campus about 45 minutes after the F5 tornado blew through.

"That's the first thing you go, 'Is this really happening?'" he recalled thinking.

The most terrifying sight of all was the hallway where students would have sought safety.

"Had we had kids here, it would have been awful, really terrible," he said. "It sucked the roof up and collapsed the walls on the inside so we would have had major folks get hurt and killed, I'm sure."

Two weeks later, students were back in class in make-shift classrooms, then trailers.

Soon after, the school began rebuilding. Safety was goal number one.

The hallway is the designated safe space inside the school.

But should a storm hit, they'd rather be at the main storm shelter which sits half a mile away.

Students and faculty have spent the last nine months practicing loading onto buses and rushing to the site.

"Last drill we had we can get everybody loaded and over there in four minutes," Hardin said. "We take it serious, I'm telling ya."

He, as well as the students, knows the 5th year anniversary is here.

"I can't really put into words how I feel," Norton said.

It will be a tough day for Kelly, too. She lost her grandmother in the storm.

"We like to go back and remember the people we lost," she said. "But we don't want to stay in the past. We want to go forward and learn from what's

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