Last fall, we loaded up a truck and moved you two to school in Tuscaloosa. David was going back after being away for a while and Jonathan was going for the first time. Dad and I weren’t sure you were mature enough to handle all the distractions of the place while attending to your studies, but you wanted to be there so badly that we wanted to let you try. You both found roommates in the McFarland Boulevard/15th Street area.

As it turned out, David decided he wanted to be closer to Katy and moved back after the fall semester. And things had progressed to the point with Jonathan that we knew you’d be home by the end of the year too. In fact, you were living with us for the last few weeks of school and commuting back and forth to class every day.

So it was that on that fateful 27th day of April, you were both in Birmingham. The weather had been forecast to be bad, with two storm systems to come through, the second worse than the first. The sirens went off at 5:30 in the morning and we went to the basement. The winds caused downed trees and widespread power outages, snarling traffic and resulting in one death. But we didn’t have any idea about what was coming later in the day.

I was cooking dinner, you were upstairs studying, and Dad was watching TV when I heard him call out, “Jonathan! Come see this!” We ran to the TV to see a monster tornado bearing down on Tuscaloosa. It was a mile wide and had descended to the middle of the city. I texted David that the Krispy Kreme doughnut shop was flattened and he replied, “That’s 50 yards from my roommates’ house.” The McFarland Boulevard/15th Street area was devastated. David’s former house was badly damaged, but thankfully his roommates were OK. Sadly, five students died in the storm, a small number given the enormity of the disaster.

I was sorry that you didn’t achieve your goals in Tuscaloosa, but on that day, I was so thankful that you had just enough immaturity not to be there.

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