We learned of the deadly tornadoes that struck the area around Columbus, Georgia and Lee County, Alabama via text message. Our 25-year-old daughter works for an engineering firm in Columbus and wrote:
"Okay don't freak out but there's a tornado pretty close by. I'm in the bath tub."
At the time, my wife and I were in Seattle visiting my mom. We'd just been to church and were gathering with the relatives for a late lunch at a nearby restaurant. Needless to say, the conversation with relatives ground to a halt once we received that text. We clicked on a live feed from a local Columbus TV station. The tornado touched down in Beauregard, Alabama, which the National Weather Service now says was decimated by an EF4 category storm. The path was nearly a mile wide, with winds at an astounding 170 miles per hour.
The storm moved east, causing a path of devastation in its wake, and taking 23 precious lives. It was in Smiths Station, Alabama, just across the Georgia line and only a few miles from our daughter's apartment. It was headed her way.
Jessica said she lost power, made jokes about how ridiculous it seemed that she was hiding in a bath tub with pillows and a ski helmet for protection. Ridiculous? Maybe, but safer than nothing.
We received these texts from her:
"I think it might be coming to where I'm at."
"It's crossed over in to Georgia."
"It's right over me I think, it's very loud."
After a minute or two, her mom asks if it's still there. Nothing, no response.
A couple more very uncomfortable minutes before a response:
"I'm fine it's just loud"
Finally, relief when the storm passed. The worst of the tornado actually dissipated once it passed into Georgia. For Jessica, it was a bit of inconvenience. A power outage, and ultimately watching a bit of Netflix on a smart phone until the power came back on the same day. For my wife and I, it was a tense lunch where we were really unable to enjoy the company of the people we were there to visit with. But we were blessed. Jessica was spared.
As we found out later, 23 people lost their lives in these deadly storms. Homes were destroyed, and hundreds more are left to pick up their lives. This is where community comes together. Along with members of the Alabama Broadcasters Association, we're asking you to join us and my family to help provide tornado relief. Make your donation to the American Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund. They're on the scene helping people rebuild their lives. After a close call, we're only too happy to help.