The Alabama trip has made a large impact on my life. I can speak for everyone on the trip and say we are more grateful for what we all have and how lucky we are to have a home and a bed.
Laura Agront-Hobbs is an Upper School Spanish teacher. She also coaches track and the 2010 volleyball team.
Last Friday, I gave the final exam to my students and then graded them for roughly 20 straight hours because I wanted to be able to go to Alabama on Monday, May 30 to volunteer and help clean up the damage left behind by a severely deadly tornado. On Monday I packed my personal items and left for Tuscaloosa. This trip was more personal to me than most people in the group because I consider Tuscaloosa my second home. I lived there for 15 years. My son was born there and my daughter was 11 years old when we left Tuscaloosa. I had an idea of what to expect there, but I didn’t think it was going to be that devastating.
I’m not sure if it is because the kind of kid who wants to go to Alabama and work in the hot sun during their first full week of summer is a different caliber of kid, but I was really impressed by our students on this trip. We have a well-rounded group whose personalities added so much life and fun to the trip. All of these kids worked their tails off for the last three days — I mean really worked hard. But it wasn’t just the kids. The faculty were amazing. Ricks Carson, Jane Sibley, Jason Smith, Tommy Hattori, Regina Tate, Laura Agront-Hobbs, Donice Bloodworth, Sara Siegel, Dan Walls and Lee Wilson all set a great example for the kids by working hard and pouring every bit of their energy into whatever they were doing. Of course Trish Anderson and Jonathan Day, who organized the trip, were working hard with chain saws and pouring down sweat. They also made sure we were maximizing our impact in Tuscaloosa by keeping us moving from one assignment to the next.
Last night, I drove around town to see how far the damage went. I have never been to Tuscaloosa before (I am a Gator—I try to stay out of enemy territory), so I am not sure exactly where I was in comparison to … really anything. According to Google maps, this was across from the mall and near Target on 15th. I believe that is a hospital in the background of this picture.
I pulled over to take this, but I wish I could have taken video. It went on like this for a couple miles. Scary stuff, especially since the college is right there. Coach A’s son goes to school there, and I bet she wasn’t the only scared Mom during the storm! I just read that UA opened a hotline for parents to call if they were concerned about their child’s whereabouts. I can’t even imagine …
Thank goodness for the breeze.
This morning we separated into two groups and each group took a house. The girls got an elderly man’s house closer to the church. The house was boarded up, so we aren’t sure what happened to the homeowner. It looked like he had a backyard shed/garage that came down and the big trucks couldn’t get back there to get everything, so the girls and Mr. Smith (the only guy in our group) were responsible for moving all the debris to the front yard. The boys’ group was a few streets down. They had to remove trees and debris from a piece of land that once had a house on it, but it was bulldozed recently. In order to rebuild, the city needed all the debris from the back cleaned up and brought to the front of the yard, so the truckers could take it.
The girls were fascinated with the house to which they were assigned. The man who owned the home must have kept a lot of memories in his backyard shed. In the rubble we found old radio user manuals, many books about teaching Bible study, and what caused many an “awwwww” among our romantic teenage girls — letters home to his wife from when he served in the military during WWII. I think that particular assignment took longer than it should have because they took a little extra care sifting through the old man’s things. The girls set up a table of any personal items they found just in case the owner decides to come back home. The girls are going to check with the church — and we have his name, Mr. Hilt — to see if there is a way to get his things back to him.