It’s been 19 years. Dec. 16, 2000, is a date that brings back memories for those who lived through an EF4 tornado touching down in Tuscaloosa County.

The path of destruction was 18 miles long. It took 11 people’s lives, and injured 144. More than 40 homes and 70 mobile homes were damaged, along with businesses in the area.

But thousands of lives were spared, including those of Joe Pete Hayes and his wife Jimmie Gene Hayes.

In total, 6,939 days have passed since that day. A lot has been rebuilt. Many have moved on. But there is one thing standing just as it did 19 years ago at this very moment.

The Hayes family had a flagpole in front of their home across from Shelton State Community College. The same winds that destroyed the family’s home and vehicles only bent their flagpole. Joe Hayes said he chose to leave the flagpole standing as a reminder of how precious life is.

“We had a lot of angels watching over us that day. God has left us here for some reason,” Jimmie Hayes said.

So if you’re ever in the area of Highway 69 South, look for this flagpole and remember what it stands for. It may be bent, but it’s not broken.

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