On April 27, 2011, one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in history ravaged the Deep South. In my state alone, there were 252 deaths.
I watched the weather on TV all day, as one particularly deadly tornado crossed the state. It was heading north of us, straight into the community where my best friend Suzanne lives.
When I heard legendary weatherman James Spann mention the name of the road she lived on, I slid off the couch onto my knees. I texted her to see if she was okay. No response. So I called her home phone. Nothing. No response on her cell phone either.
You can imagine my relief when she texted me several minutes later to say yes, there had been a tornado but they were okay. She didn't know about any damage to the house because it was starting to get dark and they couldn't see how bad things were.
But by the light of day, we all realized just how close the tornado came. While her home and her parents' home was spared destruction, there was incredible damage to the property. The entire landscape had changed, and nothing will ever be as it once was.
This was a playhouse where her children and mine spent many happy hours together.
Looking from the corner of Suzanne's house across the road. Trees had been snapped like toothpicks.
There were 9 deaths in this area alone. And that toll would have been much higher, had it not been such a rural, sparsely populated area.
Every time we drive to visit Suzanne and her family, I whisper a silent thank you to God for watching over my friends. I pray that today on this solemn anniversary, the families of those lost can find some healing and comfort.