How do I write this post? How do I put into words the horrors of the past week? I will try.

On Wednesday, April 27, 2011, I found out a friend of mine had committed suicide. I was shaken, but went to class, where I gave a presentation. I walked home and decided that a nap would be the best way to clear my head. Bad weather was predicted for later in the day and the tornado sirens were blaring in the distance, but that isn't unusual for spring in the south. So I went home and went to bed.

Around 4pm I heard Sam run up the stairs, and groggily looked up. "You need to come downstairs. Now. It's coming." I had heard this so many times before that I lazed around in bed until he came up to get me a second time. I got up.

We found ourselves out on the balcony of our house, and that's when we saw it- huge swirling clouds half a mile wide. Heading straight for our house. Clutching our kitten to my chest, we ran downstairs, into the closet beneath the staircase. I called my mom and told her we were bracing for the worst. I heard a crash, and, chest pumping, decided if I was about to die, I did not want my mom to hear it. I hurriedly told her I loved her and got off the phone. The radio, which we had put on to hear updates on the storm, blurred to static. The power went off. The noise of a freight train began to pound all around us, and all I could think was, we're about to die. I clutched Prime to my chest with one hand and held Sam's with the other. I kissed him, and told him I loved him over and over again. For several heart-pounding minutes, we waited. The crushing noise of the tornado passed, and we left the closet to find the world completely changed.

It would not be until hours later that we could finally access the internet on our phones and see a video of the tornado that literally shows it jumping right over our house and continuing its path of destruction, where it would ultimately take dozens of lives and leave thousands homeless. We didn't understand the scope of the destruction then, just that we were very lucky to be alive.

Entire neighborhoods of Tuscaloosa were wiped out. Over 100 tornadoes were confirmed making ground in Alabama alone that day. The University of Alabama went largely unscathed, but at least 5 UA students lost their lives. Every single house we had considered living in, other than the one we ultimately decided on and took cover in, is gone. If we had chosen differently, we would surely be dead. Tuscaloosa is unrecognizable. The tragedy is unfathomable.

That night, gunshots sounded around our house as looters took advantage of the power outage which would last for nearly a week. Terrified, we crouched in our bedroom with a large steak knife and waited. There was nowhere else to go, no other options. Nowhere was safe. We were truly all alone in the world.

In the darkness we left our home to drive to a different town to find gas for our car, in case we decided to leave town, which we ultimately did. As we pulled out of our pitch black neighborhood, we saw Bryant Denny, UA's football stadium and Tuscaloosa's main landmark, lit up against the night, the only light for miles. And in that moment, I had hope. In the terror and tragedy of that day, there was Bryant Denny, proclaiming in the darkness, we are still here. Tuscaloosa is still here. We will go on.

Please send your thoughts to Tuscaloosa and all of Alabama as we recover from our loss. Over 30 were killed in Tuscaloosa alone and hundreds are still missing or unaccounted for. Donate to the Red Cross. Send items for those who lost everything. I am very, very lucky to be alive, but so many others were not as fortunate. Please give, so that we may rebuild and recover.

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