11 years later: Alberta showcases resiliency after horrifying destruction

It was a beautiful day in Tuscaloosa’s Alberta community the afternoon of April 27, 2022. The same cannot be said for 11 years earlier. At 5:08 p.m. on April 27, 2011, an EF4 tornado cut a wide swath right down the center of Alberta. More than 60% of the area was devastated, including Alberta Elementary School, Tuscaloosa Fire Rescue’s Fire Station No. 4 and Leland Shopping Center, alongside residents’ homes.

Tuscaloosa City Council President Kip Tyner said those are moments he’ll never forget.

“Something you would just never imagine,” Tyner said. “The total devastation was overwhelming.”

Dozens of lives were lost in minutes; many more followed in the days and weeks to come. Others escaped entrapment thanks to heroes like Robert Reed, who risked his life that day with little thought for his own safety after witnessing such destruction.

“It was just a rush to make sure that I could get everybody that I could help out,” Reed said. “It made me feel wonderful because I feel like people are here to help other people. So if I can’t help somebody then I feel like I didn’t do my part or job.”

In the wake of so much destruction, Alberta has built itself back up, replacing piles of rubble with shiny new buildings offering amenities, educational opportunities and even places for quiet reflection.

“We’ve got this beautiful, digital library of the future, I call it, in The Gateway and the (Alberta School for Performing Arts),” Tyner said. “We have a national company SWJ. Their international headquarters out of Germany is right here in Alberta. Their second phase will be 100-plus new jobs, high-paying jobs. We have the Alabama One Credit Union, Catch a Taste restaurant, the new Jack’s, the largest Chevron (gas station) in West Alabama. I look at it as one block at a time.”

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