TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WBRC) - On April 27th, 2011, Alberta City in Tuscaloosa, like many Alabama communities, suffered catastrophic damage.
It’s been a long road, but that area has undergone a tremendous facelift, especially in several neighborhoods.
Juanita Drive is a street that was practically destroyed by the tornadoes. Neighbors who came back or live close said it’s astonishing to see what it looks today.
Heartache and hopelessness is all you saw on the faces of people in Alberta after April 27th’s tornado outbreak. “This is home,” said Markedia Wells-Binion. She doesn’t live on Juanita Drive anymore, but she lives a street over and visits often.
“Why come back? Why leave,” said Binion. Many of her family and neighbors she got to know closely after the storm live on Juanita. “You don’t let anyone, or anything tear you from home. Home is home, home is what you feel in your heart. Looking around and seeing the progress lets me know there is a God in heaven.” Especially after experiencing the tornadoes that day.
“For someone who’s lived through it, it’s not 10 years later. It’s still very current and you very much feel it.” said Binion. She remembers every detail. I could hear the windows breaking into the rooms and the children were literally standing half dressed in the hallway. That love seat was able to turn upside down. It provided a perfect L covering against the way,” said Binion.
Cries and screaming that could haunt anyone. “It was awful, many of our homeowners lost family members,” said Ellen Potts Executive director of Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa. Binion was one of the luckier ones. Her house however wasn’t in the best shape. That’s where Habitat for Humanity comes.
“On Juanita Drive our homes have increased in value over 25%,” said Potts. More than 26,000 volunteers helped that happen. Out of the 87 homes built since the storm, probably two-thirds of the homeowners are tornado victims and that includes Dequesha Whitelaw. She also got a new home built thanks to Habitat and it’s in the exact place where their original home was damaged due to the tornadoes. “I was just adamant about moving back to this street once I saw Habitat was building, but it was my husband who saw this spot. He was like let’s see if they can rebuild right back in the spot we stayed,” said Whitelaw.
‘We came here with one baby about to have another one, The little daughter you see running around,” said Whitelaw. With their little family complete, only one thing was missing, and a volunteer was there to help. “She stopped me and was like you know I’m a minister and I can marry you right. We weren’t really expecting to do it today, but we got married right here on our porch after they built out house, a couple of days before we moved in. Our anniversary was just April 17th.”
“There’s always a blessing and a lesson in every situation and this tornado was that for me,” said Binion. 10 years later after the storm, she is now a homeowner, college graduate, business owner and Stillman College employee is even more proud of her community today.
The 34th house on Juanita Drive, a street where homes were reduced to rubble and foundation, will be the last house Habitat for Humanity in Tuscaloosa builds here. Signifying a new chapter for Alberta after a long decade road to recovery “On the 10th anniversary we’ll dedicate this for a tornado victim family that lost everything,” said Potts. Tuesday the Wooley family moved into that last house after a dedication ceremony