Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Vigil lights darkest hour


On June 1, Tuscaloosa held a candlelight vigil to honor those who lost their lives and those who dedicated their time and effort in the aftermath of the April 27 tornado.


Vigil attendees began to gather in downtown Tuscaloosa around 7 p.m. in anticipation of a large turnout. Volunteers handed out candles and wristbands that boasted houndstooth print and the words “Spirit of Tuscaloosa” on them.

Limited seating was available to handicapped and elderly, but that did not hinder attendees. Some brought lawn chairs and others stood as the Tuscaloosa Symphony orchestra played music.

The vigil began promptly at 8 p.m. with the introduction of the attending special guest. Members on the program included Council Men and Women, members of the Police Department, University of Alabama Provost, and many others who were key in helping Tuscaloosa following the tornado.

LaDonna Roberts, Tuscaloosa’s volunteer coordinator, spoke first and thanked the numerous volunteers who selflessly came out and helped any way they could.

“On April 27, our city experienced not only the physical devastation of our land, but an emotional assault on our hearts,” Roberts said. “However, since that date, there has been an outpouring of support and service that absolutely defies description. We have seen assistance by the truckload, and it has come from every point on the map.”

Tuscaloosa County Sheriff Ted Sexton thanked residents for their faith in a time where so much was lost.

“Our city’s hope for the future is in the Lord God,” Sexton said. “He will turn our sorrow into rejoicing and our despair into hope and He will rebuild, restore and renew the city of Tuscaloosa and Tuscaloosa County.”

Probate Judge Hardy McCollum acknowledged Tuscaloosa’s elected officials for their efforts.

“There are those entrusted with public office and public service elected by our fellow citizens to serve and be community problem solvers,” McCollum said. “Elected local leaders stepped forward and met the local challenges head on, working tirelessly, attempting to relieve the pain inflicted on our communities.”

Tuscaloosa police chief Steve Anderson recognized the first responders for their involvement in the process.

“The first responders of Tuscaloosa County demonstrated their love for the citizens of our city and our county,” he said. “They put their lives in danger when the lives of others were in jeopardy.”

University of Alabama senior vice president and provost Judy Bonner gave thanks to the unsung heroes not for the great things, but in “doing small things with great love.”

Following the recognition of those who helped in the time of need, members of the community read off the names of those lost in the disaster.

The crowd cheered as Mayor Walt Maddox approached the podium and addressed the audience.

“We gather here tonight as one people who have been called by circumstance, burdened by tragedy, yet inspired by a confident hope,” Maddox said.

He spoke first on the tragic yet heroic and inspiring stories and then spoke of the spirit of the city and the process of rebuilding.

“Throughout Tuscaloosa County, our confident hope was displayed on street corners and in neighborhoods, where thousands of citizens transformed themselves into heroes by aiding the injured, searching for the missing, clearing debris and volunteering from dawn to dusk,” he said. “With one voice and one heart, Tuscaloosa refused to be defined by April 27. Rather, our resiliency, our generosity and our poise became profiles in courage and a lamp to so many who had lost so much. How we fight back, how we refuse to quit, and how we rebuild will ensure that we never forget our victims, our survivors and our heroes.”

After Maddox spoke, attendees lit the hope candle, which rested in a holder made out of a splintered tree from the devastated Forest Lake neighborhood.

One by one the flames of the candles spread, as Chris Tomlin’s “God of this City” sang a message for Tuscaloosa, “For greater things have yet to come, and greater things are still to be done in this city.”

In the final statements of Maddox’s speech he said, “Tonight, as we raise our lights to heaven, we declare that Tuscaloosa’s darkest hour has passed.”

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