Prep Football: Danville players lend a hand in tornado-ravaged Alabama
A group of 12 Danville football players went down to Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Father¿s Day and stayed for three days helping clean up damage from the April tornaodes. Players making the trip were Josh Singleton, Akeem Ray, Leroy Hawkins, Trevon Sandifer, Ace Ray, Jacobie Harris, Elliott Porter, Devonta Maurice Alcorn, Olyjawan Maurice Ford, Mike Jones, Tryston Ford and Matthew Logan. (Vaughn Little)
But even he was shocked at just how bad and widespread the damage was from the April tornadoes that killed nearly 250 people.
“It was far worse. Entire neighborhoods were just obliterated, completely gone,” said Logan, a senior. “Entire shopping centers were torn apart, a big tour bus was picked up and thrown on top of houses like it was a Tonka toy.”
Logan was one of 12 Admiral football players who accompanied assistant coach Vaughn Little and Danville teacher Aaron Etherington to Tuscaloosa, Ala., last week and spent three days working with FEMA helping to restock local schools, clear debris whre houses used to stand and do just whatever was needed.
Players making the trip were Josh Singleton, Akeem Ray, Leroy Hawkins, Trevon Sandifer, Ace Ray, Jacobie Harris, Elliott Porter, Devonta Maurice Alcorn, Olyjawan Maurice Ford, Mike Jones, Tryston Ford and Logan.
Etherington, a lifelong University of Alabama football fan who has made numerous trips top Tuscaloosa for games, was shocked at what he saw.
“I had seen it on TV and The Weather Channel, and it was worse than I anticipated. Some of the subdivisions were completely demolished,” said Etherington, who took a picture a two-inch piece of wood that went through the door of a Ford Taurus. “To me, it looked like it was going to take three to five years for some of those areas to recover.
“One of the most astonishing things was they were two months removed from the tornado, and some places looked like it just happened yesterday. And that was after they had made some progress.”
The group left Father’s Day night, arrived in Tuscaloosa early the next morning and immediately went to work.
“Our mindset was to go in, work and get out, because when you see the conditions, it’s not something you want to be in for an extended period of time,” said Little, who played football at Alabama State and has friends in the Tuscaloosa area who asked him to help out down there. “So we put our time in, worked a couple of days and got out.”
When the group arrived, they went to work clearing debris in the Holt area of Tuscaloosa.
“That was an area where 90 percent of the homes were brick and were destroyed,” Little said.
“I didn’t expect it to be that bad. We drove around the town and everything was wiped out,” senior Ford said. “We helped clean out lots, and it felt good to help the people out. There were some (residents) there, and we talked to them, and it felt good to be there to help them.”
The group cleared 10 lots in five hours in the Holt area of Tuscaloosa.
“We were supposed to clear lots so the owners could come back and rebuild or sell,” Logan said. “It was pretty strange being where someone used to live and run around and now it’s just a big empty lot.
“It was pretty hard to deal with. I think it touched our lives because back here, we’re pretty lucky. We have a house and car and some place to call home. But they don’t know because the area was completely devastated.”
Etherington, who has a 9-month-old daughter, said seeing kids’ belongings was the toughest for him.
“It was moving every time I would rake up a teddy bear or Christmas stuffed animal or I raked up a piece of a dollhouse, and having a 9-month-old, I really felt good that she was at home and in a safe bed with parents that love her,” he said. “And when I got home, I was going to have an opportunity to hug and hold her.”
Three schools were destroyed in Tuscaloosa, so the group helped restock supplies for the district to put in the makeshift schools they are going to be using.