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

From the rubble come Capstone Heroes

Harish Rao

In the aftermath of the April 27 tornado, the University of Alabama set out to find individuals who surpassed expectations and truly made a difference on the road to recovery in Tuscaloosa. In their search, two students’ efforts were determined worthy of the Capstone Heroes Award: Amanda Phillips and Charlie Stimpson.

“The University of Alabama has a number of students who deserved the opportunity to be Capstone Heroes,” said Lowell Davis, assistant dean of students. “We have students who play active roles in the Tuscaloosa community, as well as within the University. However, we wanted students who went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to assisting with the tornado.”

Davis said the award winners were chosen through nomination. Students, faculty, parents and community members could go online and nominate people. After that, a panel went through every nomination and chose the winners.

Sparking a donation frenzy

Although Phillips did not stay in Tuscaloosa more than 48 hours immediately following the storm, she was determined to do whatever she could in the time she had.

“After talking to my mom, we made the decision that I would stay as long as the University continued with classes and do what I could to help out,” she said. “I was raised in a servant home, so it just seemed natural to me to help out.

“Late afternoon on Thursday, the University announced it would close, but I was so tired, my mom and I decided I would get a good night’s sleep and then hit the road to McKinney, Tex. During the ten-hour drive home, all I could think was, ‘How could I leave a place that I now call home without doing more?’ It was so hard for me to walk away from a place that I love so much when it was hurting so much.”

Phillips said when she returned to McKinney, she knew she had to do something more. After getting support from her parents, she began to get the word out about hosting a donation drive at her home. She said the response was unbelievable and she could never have imagined so many people stepping up to help with the cause.

In the end, Phillips’ efforts resulted in more than $1,000 being donated to the relief effort and almost $1,000 in gift cards, in addition to a truckload of donated items. She explained that upon her return to Tuscaloosa, she passed out the donated gift cards.

“Then, we drove around to see all the damages,” Phillips said. “As we did, every time we saw a family or people working in their yards, we stopped and handed out gift cards to them. We wanted to brighten the day of those that were affected by this disaster.”

Davis said Phillips had showed everyone just how much one person could accomplish.

“It truly says that you cannot underestimate the power of one,” Davis said. “Imagine if 10 people had done the work that Amanda Phillips did. Who knows where the city of Tuscaloosa would be in terms of tornado relief? It really speaks to her character and how her parents raised her and the influence her parents had on her to give back and make a difference, no matter how difficult the task.”

A first responder offers aid

Along with donations, the Tuscaloosa community could not have begun the road to recovery without the men and women who donated their time, talents and strength. Student recipient Stimpson went out almost immediately following the tornado to give the assistance he was trained for in the Army ROTC.

After they were given permission to leave the safety of campus, Stimpson and several other members of the ROTC went out into the devastation.

“A friend of mine had just gotten married, and he and his wife lived right behind Krispy Kreme, so we immediately went to see if she was ok,” Stimpson said. “We went straight there and ran pretty much the entire way to where his house used to be. After we made sure she was ok, we met up with the police and firefighters and said, ‘Hey, what do you need us to do? We want to help.” I was a medic. I was trained to do this. We pretty much went door-to-door and got everybody to DCH or to Best Buy because they were expecting another tornado.”

“It speaks even higher of Charlie’s character that we wanted to recognize him, but he said he didn’t want the award,” Davis said. “He had said that the award was really the ROTC’s award. He insisted that this award was not his alone. He wanted a group to be recognized and not just him as an individual, and I think that says a lot about what kind of person he is.”

“I didn’t want to accept the award because, the way I saw it, I have been trained to go out and help people,” Stimpson said. “It was my job. So, if I was going to accept it, I wanted to shine a good light on the ROTC program. It’s a great program, and it teaches you to serve something other than yourself. I didn’t think I really deserved an award, but I wanted people to know that it wasn’t just me out there.”

Stimpson said that through the disaster of the April 27 tornado, he hopes the people of Tuscaloosa remember what they are capable of.

“We came together as a city and as the University of Alabama,” Stimpson said. “And I hope people remember that. I want people to remember that they should always choose to make the good choice. It would be too easy to just walk away.”

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