Rosedale Residents Remember April 27,
There Were Angels Watching Over Us

[Photo 1: Housing rubble from which Ms. Barnes was pulled after the storm.]
This was the rubble from which Ms. Barnes was pulled after the storm. She says that when she went back to see what she could save from her unit, that the angel she had always left sitting on her dresser was still there sitting on her dresser, and looking over the closet she had been pulled from.

As early evening approached on April 27, 2011, Levert Wedgeworth was making the short walk from his apartment in the Rosedale community in Tuscaloosa, AL to his Aunt's apartment in the same community. As he walked along the road he remembers feeling like something or someone tapped him on his shoulder and told him he needed to go home, but he kept walking. A little later he looked up at the darkening sky and again something seemed to touch him on the shoulder and tell him go home. Then, as he started toward his unit he saw the massive funnel cloud in the background, and he saw children playing on the playground unaware of what was about to happen.

Wedgeworth screamed for residents to take cover as he ran for his unit. He saw others scurrying with looks of desperation and panic on their faces. As the storm ripped through the community, Wedgeworth hunkered down in his bath tub hearing all kinds of frightening sounds; the reverberation of the wind, the sound of walls falling, and a sound almost like that of train crashing into the community. When the wind finally subsided, he looked up from the tub he had taken refuge in, and could see the sky. Walking to what used to be his front door; he looked out over the community and could not believe the devastation he saw. His first thought was to go and try to cut off the water he saw water gushing everywhere. But then he heard people screaming for help. He looked around and he saw a neighbor struggling in front of his unit, trying to rescue his wife and kids from the rubble. Wedgeworth went down and helped him. As he did so he heard other screams.

Jeanette Barnes doesn't remember much of what happened on April 27. If you look at the picture of her unit after the storm, you might understand better, if you realized that when the storm ended she was trapped under the rubble that you see in the picture. Her entire unit was destroyed, walls caved in, belongings scattered to the wind. But she remembers that when it was over she was grateful to be alive, and she had the overwhelming feeling that there were angels watching over her and the community.

One such angel was a porcelain angel that was a gift from her mother that always sat on her dresser. As she heard the storm approaching she went to go to her bathroom and lay in the tub, but somehow something told her to go to the closet in her bedroom instead. If she had gone to her bathroom she almost certainly would have lost her life, when the walls fell in and smothered that room in debris. As she tells her story she frequently looks to Mr. Wedgeworth for confirmation or to fill in the details.

[Photo 2: Jeanette Barnes and Levert Wedgeworth pose for a picture in Phase One of the New Rosedale Court Development]
Jeanette Barnes and Levert Wedgeworth pose for a picture in Phase One of the New Rosedale Court Development. In this phase 88 of the units destroyed on April 27, will be replaced with state of the art new units. The Tuscaloosa Housing Authority leveraged over $16.5 million along with $1.5 million in HUD funding to make this $18 million first phase a reality.

The way she remembers the storm was that she heard a sound like a train coming, and that she heard stuff falling everywhere. She says that she was in her closet praying, "Lord please let me and my family be alright." And then she says it got quiet, and she tried to move but realized she was trapped. She lay there moaning in pain, hoping someone would hear her.

As Wedgeworth walked away from the rubble of the first family he helped, he heard a quiet moaning sound. He stopped to listen to see where it was coming from and as he did he saw Jeanette Barnes' arm sticking out from the rubble. Barnes has no real memory of this moment and is content to let Wedgeworth tell this part of the story, even at times asking him for details she can't quite remember. And he fills in the details as best he can, at one point telling her how her whole body was trembling when they first pulled her out of the rubble.

Now almost a year later both are able to look back on those terrifying moments after the storm and at the compassion they have experienced in its aftermath. The storms struck on April 27, damaging a substantial percentage of the housing stock for the City of Tuscaloosa and surrounding community, and yet for Mr. Wedgeworth and Ms. Barnes, eight days after the storm they moved into replacement housing provided by the Tuscaloosa Housing Authority with the assistance of 185 Relocation Vouchers provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The units they moved into were fully furnished by Calvary Baptist Church, as a part of their Christian Outreach Ministry. The Church not only purchased replacement furniture and personal items for 65 displaced Rosedale residents, they coordinated with volunteers from the University of Alabama to have the units of displaced residents completely set up before they left their temporary housing. Ms. Barnes says that the moment she walked into her new unit, with all new furniture and appliances, she knew those angels were still on their job.

While Ms. Barnes and Mr. Wedgeworth are grateful for all they have received since the storm, as they watch the development of Phase One of the new Rosedale Court Apartments they have one more dream that they hope their angels can make come true. Ms. Barnes says that she dreams of the day when she has moved back into the Rosedale community, and has neighbors like Mr. Wedgeworth to check on her like they did before. She knows it's a lot to ask for, but her angels have been pretty good so far.


Content Archived: March 2, 2014