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

Residents hopeful for Alberta

Katherine Martin

The community of Alberta was one of the areas hit hardest by the April 27 tornado. The storm left hundreds of families without homes, business owners without businesses and students without a school. But in the wake of tragedy, the community has come together in strength and in courage with the determination to move forward.

“One thing I’ll always take with me from that tragic day is the spirit of the people of Alberta,” said Tuscaloosa City Councilman Kip Tyner, a life-long resident of the Alberta community.

Tyner said he feels the community has made great strides toward recovery in recent months.

“In the days that followed the tornado, we couldn’t even see what needed to be done because of all the damage,” Tyner said. “Our main priority was to remove all the debris and severely damaged structures. I feel that we’ve made a great deal of progress with that goal.”

Tyner said there has been tremendous planning by the Tuscaloosa City Council and members of the community.

“The Tuscaloosa Forward Plan shows some incredible and exciting things for Alberta,” Tyner said. “In the 1960s and ‘70s, Alberta was the place to live, it was the place to be. For me, that wasn’t that long ago.”

Tyner said he feels confident in the people of Alberta’s resilience.

“It will be a long road,” Tyner said. “But I think people, especially the locals, know that Alberta will come back, and it will be better than ever.”

Tyner isn’t the only one who shares this hope for Alberta’s future. The teachers and students of Alberta Elementary School echo Tyner’s confidence and excitement for the community. But they know all too well just how long the road to recovery will be.

Stephanie Brogden Faulkner, a fourth grade teacher at Alberta Elementary School and lifelong Tuscaloosa resident, got involved with the recovery effort mere hours after the tornado struck.

On the morning of April 28, Faulkner set out alone in search of students and their families. Before noon, a spontaneous group of teachers formed in front of what used to be Alberta Elementary School. The group was on a mission to find hope among the devastated streets of what used to be neighborhoods.

“I will never forget the look on the faces of the people as they began to come out of their houses or wander down the streets. It was a look of fear and despair that is indescribable,” Faulkner said. “I remember us directing people to where they needed to go and even helping a mother of a student gather all the belongings that she could. I think she knew she would most likely never again see what she left behind.”

The community and the school have come a long way since those heart-wrenching moments of uncertainty, but they still recognize the task before them.

Malachi DuBose, a fifth grade student at Alberta Elementary School, said he now knows what it looks like when friends and neighbors become family.

DuBose said his house was “split down the middle” after the tornado but that none of the seven people that crowded into his bathroom were injured.

“Right after the tornado, my neighbor that lives next door came running into our house, yelling our names,” he said. “He knew that there were a lot of kids there and wanted to make sure we were all OK.”

DuBose and his family now live in a rental home in Northport but are hopeful to return to Alberta after their home has been repaired.

Faulkner was DuBose’s fourth grade reading teacher. She said she believes the role of an educator extends far beyond facilitating learning.

“It is my personal philosophy that in order to be a successful teacher, you must first establish a relationship with your students and their families,” Faulkner said. “Along with that comes the emotional bond and sense of responsibility that you feel for each student. At the beginning of every school year, I explain to my students that we’re going to become a family; caring for each other, supporting each other and always working together.”

Faulkner said she believes this time of empathy and support will make a positive impact on the students of Alberta Elementary School, and it will be an impact that lasts a lifetime.

“From a teacher’s perspective, what I have seen is an entire nation of people, both adults and children, come together to support each other,” Faulkner said.

The most important thing to her now is for the Tuscaloosa community to continue to offer support in not only rebuilding the community of Alberta City, but also in seeing that Alberta Elementary School is rebuilt also.

“Alberta City was a special place where our students not only went to school, but lived, shopped, worked and even worshipped,” he said. “It was the place they called home.”

Faulkner said while they are fortunate and grateful to have a temporary school shared with the Tuscaloosa Magnet School, the school is just that: temporary.

“We all took pride in our building, but mostly, we took pride in being able to call Alberta Elementary ‘our school,'” she said. “Until we are able to do that again, we have not completed the challenge left behind from the storm that forever changed our lives.”

DuBose agreed with his fourth grade teacher, saying that while he enjoyed his new school, he wished he could go back to the old Alberta.

“At our old school, there was more room to spread out. Here, everything is a little bit more crowded,” DuBose said. “But what I miss most is P.E. I loved going outside and having all that room to run around. And I really miss the big trees.”

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