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Veteran Tuscaloosa firefighter remembers ‘once-in-a-career’ event: April 27, 2011

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 4:25 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 27, 2022 at 10:24 AM CDT
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala, (WBRC) - April 27, 2011 - a day none of us in Alabama will forget. The day when a tornado carved out a nearly 6 mile path of destruction, now 11 years ago.

Tuscaloosa Fire Station Number 4 is located in the Alberta community. It is there where firefighters took shelter and when the storm passed. They literally started walking with any equipment they could carry to help someone, anyone on that day.

“From here where we are, the tornado was first on the ground,” said Deputy Fire Chief John Brook.

Brook remembers all too well when the skies turned dark with a vengeance.

“It was that moment, how bad was it going to be and how bad do you think it is and my response is, ‘I think this is bad we’ll ever see,’” said Brook.

The tornado wiped away 12% of the city, broke its heart and killed 53 people alone in Tuscaloosa. At the time, Brook was holed up in the basement of Tuscaloosa City Hall.

“I was the commander for the storm response for that day,” said Brook.

As a 30-year veteran, Brook says the storm was a once-in-a-career moment, a snapshot of how so much could change so soon in a matter of seconds.

“You only have something like that happen once in your career and you frame things by it with the rest of your career,” Brook said.

Surreal and unbelievable, words John Brook uses to describe that day, but he also remembers how the tornado brought out the very best in humanity.

On that day, no one cared who did what in life. On that day, all became one and helped each other.

“Neighbors helping neighbors, everyday people doing extraordinary things,” said Brook.

We should also remember that Tuscaloosa wasn’t the only city that sustained tornado damage and deaths. That same system produced more than 60 tornadoes across Alabama.

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