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

Mayor reflects on storms, progress

Drew Hoover

While reflecting on the six months that have passed since April 27, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox said he would most remember Tuscaloosa’s citizens and their actions immediately following the tornado.

“Their resiliency in the hours and days after the event were inspiring because everyone came together in such a powerful way that it ensured that this city would not only survive, but be reborn,” Maddox said. “I will never forget the hours upon hours that I spent at aid stations across this city, meeting with our citizens who had either lost everything or were volunteering and being captivated by their resiliency and their confident hope. That will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

He said the outpouring of students who volunteered in the city inspired everyone to do more to help the recovery process.

“Immediately after April 27, students filled the gap in terms of providing humanitarian assistance throughout the city, whether it was clearing debris, raising funds or working in many of the different service organizations,” Maddox said. “Since that time, I’ve been struck by how the momentum has continued, and I think that’s going to be a necessity in the future because we have a lot of long-term needs that are going to require a vast amount of assistance from volunteer organizations.”

Maddox said the city’s greatest accomplishment was its ability to respond to the disaster after losing so much of its internal infrastructure and network.

“To lose so much, yet be able to provide services necessary during a catastrophic event, is remarkable and speaks volume about the staff here at the city,” he said.

“I think the second biggest accomplishment is the speed of debris removal because that in and of itself was a very complex task that required an extreme amount of coordination on many different levels. I think third was passing Tuscaloosa Forward and not only passing it, but establishing a very open and transparent process that allowed every citizen to have input in deciding their future.”

With debris removal about 99 percent complete, Maddox said the city would now transition into several different areas, whose goals and objectives will take years to achieve.

“The first is developing a housing plan, which will layer on top of what we passed with Tuscaloosa Forward,” he said. “The second is economic developing, assisting the 600 businesses that were damaged and opening their doors. Third is repairing our infrastructure, both as it relates to the city’s internal facilities and the city’s external infrastructure, traffic lights, roads, curbs and gutters. Fourth is going after [federal] and state funds that are available to assist in our recovery. Those funds can help us with safety rooms, floodway acquisitions and other grants geared towards recovery.”

Maddox said anniversaries of catastrophic events are difficult because they require the affected to reflect and, in some ways, take a step back.

“For me, moving forward has always helped in overcoming the emotional part of this, which is difficult,” he said. “And I know it must be that way for those who lost so much. I know these anniversaries are a very difficult time for all of our citizens who were impacted so greatly. At the same time, I understand these events help us to celebrate what we’ve accomplished.”

Upon completing a slew of interviews with the media and attending a prayer service, Maddox said he plans to spend Oct. 27 reflecting on all that’s happened in the past six months.

“I think in some ways, I’ll be reflecting on what we’ve been through and just how difficult it’s been, but also celebrating what we’ve accomplished as a community,” he said. “And I hope our citizens feel a great sense of pride knowing that Tuscaloosa is now the model for how you respond to a catastrophic event.”

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