Changed forever

Published 9:37 am Saturday, April 30, 2011

In the past, Tuscaloosa, Ala., has been known for two things — University of Alabama football and barbecue.

From its first national championship in 1926 to its most recent one in 2010, the Crimson Tide has been the talk of the city in west Alabama, and a slab of famous Dreamland ribs can shut anyone up.

Unfortunately, the city will now also be known as one of the hardest-hit sites in the second deadliest storm system in this country’s history.

The city is reeling after it was hit by two tornadoes, one of which was a mile wide and measured at F-5, the highest rating.

The storm system that hit Tuscaloosa and other parts of the South, killing more than 300, held special significance because I spent four wonderful years there as a UA student.

It’s been hard to watch the media coverage and videos of the storm, as many of the places I had frequented are now unrecognizable. Once-thriving city blocks are now desolate.

The support for Tuscaloosa from all over the state and the South has been touching to this Alabama boy — the most impressive of which comes from a Facebook page called “Toomer’s for Tuscaloosa.”

Toomer’s is a reference to a city block near the Auburn University campus called Toomer’s Corner. The page was started by Auburn fans in support of UA students and residents of Tuscaloosa.

Given the bitterness of the rivalry between the Tide and the Tigers, this means a lot. I’ve seen diehard Auburn fans post the UA cheer of “Roll Tide” on the page, which is normally unheard of, but I guess we can all find common ground when disaster hits.

I will also be thinking of the residents of Tuscaloosa as the city works to dig itself out of the mess created by Mother Nature. While I’m certain that Tuscaloosa can rebuild from this and get stronger, I’m also sad that it will have been changed forever.

Dale Liesch is a staff writer at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at