Alabama recovering after tornadoes, country music stars plan benefit concert

Bama Rising opens; Amanda Read's personal insight as an Alabamian who witnessed the storms.

OHATCHEE, Al., May 18, 2011 – On June 14th, “Bama Rising: A Benefit Concert for Alabama Tornado Recovery” presented by Verizon will take place at the BJCC arena in Birmingham.

Among the artists to be featured are Taylor Hicks, Kellie Pickler, Martina McBride, Bo Bice, Sara Evans, Ashton Shepherd, Darius Rucker and the group ALABAMA, which will be reuniting for this performance, having retired in 2003.

The Bama Rising website quotes ALABAMA’s Randy Owen, stating on behalf of the group, “My hope is that this will bring happiness and help to my fellow citizens in Alabama. I believe it’s extremely important that we do this benefit, and I want everyone in the state to feel like they are part of it. I hope we all can pull together to help get through the worst natural disaster I’ve ever seen in Alabama. I appreciate my friends in country music, everyone that’s been involved, and anyone that’s helped in any way.”

Tickets will be available on Friday, May 20th at 11:00 A.M. Central Time, ranging in price from $25-$150.

In light of the many events that happened, I’ve struggled to figure out which article should serve as my column’s overdue breakfast. It’s fun to appear invincible online publicly, without having to acknowledge that my absence was due to such mundane things as midterm exams, final exams, and lack of electricity, water, telephone, internet and sleep. But, I suppose it would only be fitting and proper to acknowledge some of the issues before more time passes.

Thankfully, my family and I weren’t harmed in the devastating tornado system that scourged Alabama. Some relatives lost their garage and part of their house and barn, and we lost some tremendous trees that just missed our house, guesthouse and chicken coop when they collapsed.

It was at about 6:30 in the morning of April 27th – the day after I had completed interviews for upcoming articles – that the storm whipped around our house, twisting and sucking live trees up out of the ground. Our power was knocked out, and later that afternoon, we lost water (both stayed out for at least a couple of days).

LITTLE BROTHERS AFTER THE STORM: David (8) and Benjamin (4) Read inspect damage from a tree that fell across the family swimming pool and garden arbor. (Photo by Abigail Read)

A school bus full of children braved the hazardous weather in order to make up for snow days that occurred earlier this year, only to be trapped on our street by two fallen trees. Another tree on a nearby road fell and smashed a semi truck. Power lines and glass were strewn throughout the area.

While in our basement that evening, we could look out the windows and hear the tornado avoiding us in the distance, chugging along its wrathful way (see videos of the tornado here). It was a miserable sound.

NOW WE HAVE TO CLEAN IT ALL UP: Joseph Read (16) takes a look at an uprooted tree. To put it in perspective, he’s at least 6 feet tall. (Photo by Abigail Read)

Our state lost at least 238 lives due to that event. When Dad drove around town, he saw bodies being brought in for the coroner to examine. A peculiar part of the whole experience for my family and me was being disconnected from the rest of the world, and unable to fully comprehend the moment.

We weren’t quite sure about all that had happened. Friends managed to contact my father via cell phone and describe how terrible the tornado damage in Tuscaloosa looked on television (and to think that we had just been in Tuscaloosa on Resurrection Sunday!). We didn’t know any details about President Obama’s visit (see Governor Bentley and President Obama get attacked by a wasp in Tuscaloosa here).

We couldn’t see what the rest of the country could see on the media. Everything felt very empty and quiet. In some ways, ignorance is bliss, but for me, at the time, it was rather tormenting.

The little amount of time in which I managed to regain internet access at my grandparents’ house (in the nearby town of Jacksonville) had to be spent completing online college assignments, so I still felt quite uninformed.

Perversely, this has left me at a loss of words over an event that I was technically a part of, because I have felt too far behind the story to comment on it.

Yet it is humbling - perhaps in an odd way enlightening - to reflect on this and realize that many around the world experience fallout from trials that they don’t fully comprehend because they don’t have access to information technology (and many don’t have running water or electricity, for that matter). They also may never have known what it was like to have such in the first place.

SURVIVED THE STORM: A Canadian goose nesting at our pond hatched out three adorable goslings right after the tornado. (Photo by Abigail Read)

“For You have been a defense for the helpless, a defense for the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm…” - Isaiah 25:4

Furthermore, the loss that others in Alabama experienced last month was not merely frustrating, but tragic.

I will add here articles on the subject that I think readers should take a look at (this list may be updated over time):

Tornado Devastation Scenes at Crawford Family Homesite and Surrounding Area” by Doug Phillips, 04/28/2011.

Faithful Father of Thirteen Gives His Life for His Children In Alabama Tornado Destruction” by Doug Phillips, 04/28/2011 [The Lees are good friends of some of our friends, and we visited their church a couple of years ago].

Tuscaloosa tornado experience shared in harrowing account by University of Alabama student” by Randy Robbins, his Facebook note reprinted at, 05/05/2011.

Out of the Whirlwind: God’s Love and Christian Charity” by Ray Nothstine, 05/18/2011.

Terror, Tragedy And Hope In Tuscaloosa” by Lars Anderson for Sports Illustrated, 05/23/2011.


Amanda Read is an unconventional scholar, a Southerner without an accent, a Christian who hasn’t been a churchgoer in 16 years and a college student who lives with eight younger siblings. A writer and artist, she blogs at and is the author of the historical drama screenplay The Crusading Chemist. Amanda is majoring in history and minoring in political science at Troy University.

Follow her on twitter at and Facebook at

Read more of Amanda’s column Not Your Average Read in the Communities at The Washington Times.

-cl- 5/19/11

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Amanda Read

Amanda Read is a columnist for the Communities at The Washington Times. Trained as a historian, skilled as a writer, and aspiring to be a filmmaker, Amanda investigates the ideas behind contemporary culture and politics. A professional writer and researcher, she is also a Christian homeschool graduate, unconventional college graduate, military daughter, and eldest of the nine Read children at Fair Hills Farm. Find more of her work at

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