For the first time since 1967, I visited my mother Rosia Mae’s hometown of Russellvile, Alabama. In total, seventeen Kellys, Dagles and Houlihans made the trip and in the neighboring town of Phil Campbell, my Uncle Roy Davis hosted a spectacular barbeque complete with all the trimmings. Many of my relatives had gathered there for the special occasion and the heart-warming reception and “southern hospitality” accorded my family is something I will remember the rest of my life.
As I mingled with my cousins and filled my plate with black-eyed peas, cornbread, chitlins and hickory-smoked ribs, I couldn’t help but notice the periodic rumbling of the passing sixteen-wheelers, which were teeming with tornado debris. Later in the day, our “Yankee” posse visited the site of the recent tornado carnage; the town of Phil Campbell alone suffered 29 fatalities. Needless to say, the utter devastation and destruction caused by “Mother Nature” was heart-stopping. I couldn’t begin to imagine the despair and hopelessness felt by the families that emerged from their storm cellars only to find that everything they had owned and toiled for had been reduced to rubble. It was a truly humbling experience.
To a person, we were thankful that such forces of nature occurred very rarely in Massachusetts and swore to never complain about shoveling snow again. Incredibly, I returned to Charlestown only to see the exact same images filling the television screen here in my home state.