Tornado damage and recovery in Alabama

Spider-man in Alberta, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Since the last blog post a ton has happened. Not just to/for me, but my state and region. Friends have had babies, shoots have been booked, rescheduled, shot, and delivered. I've seen family for Easter (a good time, if a bit sombre as it is the first holiday without granddad). We have purchased and installed our first bee hive (and immediately fallen in love with each little bee that buzzes in and out). But all this pales in comparison to the tornadoes that torn through the southeast last week.

Amazingly, I know very few people directly around me who lost loved ones or suffered catastrophic damage, which sort of blows my mind given the extent of the damage across Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. But quite literally all around me lay piles of former homes and sentimental mementos clumped together in ugly mountains reminding everyone how tenuous all of life is. And also how little things mean, as comforting as they may be. This has been evidenced to me by the huge groups of people, many of whom now standing with nothing to their name, banding together in their loss, reinforcing the community that binds them. Community. That one element of the human existence has absolutely overwhelmed me with hope. Deep in destroyed and debris filled cities I found neighbors with nothing helping those around them. I saw locals fortunate enough to be spared disaster throwing in their hands and foods and goods and money. I met people who drove hours from their homes to be where people needed them.

In the face of one of the worst storms in history, and certainly my life as I remember it, shines the spirit of altruism and support. What seems to be utter demolition immediately turns into hope and rebuilding.

This may seem hokey and a bit idealistic, but it's absolutely true. I saw it and felt it.

The day after the storm, still unsure how to even help anyone, I got a call from Marshall over at Garden & Gun telling me they really wanted to cover the aftermath of the storms. They are a very warm and very southern magazine and their desire to talk about such a major event in the regions history didn't surprise me. They gave me the freedom to go into these communities to try my best to figure out just what in the world one does after such an insane event.

There is a gallery of images at their website from my time photographing. I traveled to Fultondale and Pratt City on Thursday (28th) with the help of Duquette Johnston and to Brookwood, Cottondale, Coaling, Alberta, and Tuscaloosa on Friday (29th).

Below are some of the photos from Garden & Gun and some others that are personally impacting.

Days Inn in Fultondale, Alabama.

The view from the balcony at the Days Inn in Fultondale.

Debris scattered around Pratt City, Alabama.

Pratt City. Willy Johnson overlooks the neighborhood where he grew up, and where is mother's house used to stand. His mother, Dela, survived the storm by being pinned in a stairwell by an oven.

Further damage in Pratt City, Alabama.

Cottondale, Alabama. Bill Lawler, Pastor of a local church describes the damage to his area.

Debris in the Alberta community in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Trees in Alberta, Tuscaloosa.

A wider view of the Alberta community

Downtown Tuscaloosa.

Boutwell Auditorium served as a Red Cross donation site and shelter for some of those displaced.