Disaster News Network Print This

Coaches chip in

BY PJ HELLER | Tuscaloosa, AL | December 20, 2000

Athletic coaches from the University of Alabama -- accustomed to building character in their players -- got a dose of character building of their own as they teamed up to assist in disaster recovery efforts here.

Coaches of baseball, golf, and soccer -- along with a chaplain at the university who works for Athletes in Action -- were among the volunteers who have been out at the Bear Creek Mobile Home Park helping residents there search for their personal belongings and to offer help after a killer tornado leveled the area.

Six people in the mobile home park were killed, including a 15-month-old boy and his father.

The death of the toddler, who was found in the mangled debris of the mobile home park, was especially hard on volunteers and rescue workers.

"That really struck home because most of us have small children about that age," said Wayne Wadell, the university chaplain. "Most of the workers sat down and kind of privately wept."

Wadell, along with the coaches and his 11-year-old son Brant, braved the wintry cold and wind to dig through the rubble left by Saturday's devastating tornado. They unearthed family photographs Christmas presents and other personal items, which they neatly stacked on a table.

Carolyn Janes, whose husband Tim was seriously injured by the twister, also scoured the remains of her mobile home looking for whatever she could salvage. Wadell and his crew managed to find Tim Janes identification card beneath the debris and handed it to Carolyn Janes, who stood looking at it, somewhat amazed that it had been found.

Wadell said he and the others from the university, who are on their winter holiday break, felt compelled to come to the mobile home park and do what they could to help.

"As a chaplain, my values would be compassion and assistance," he said, adding that he had been through other disasters after living on the coast.

"I've lived through hurricanes, so I've been on the other end of this before," he said. "Other coaches are seeing this for the first time."

He noted that some of the volunteers were deeply affected by what they were witnessing.

"For a lot of the coaches who are with me, this is the first time they're really seeing something of this magnitude," Wadell said. "Both emotionally and physically, I think for the coaches it's been a character building time for them as well."

Wadell said he, too, had been affected by the ravages of the storm.

"The trauma has been hard on me," he said. "It's been tough to sleep. I keep thinking about what these people would have seen the last few minutes before they were either killed or injured.

"I can't sleep at night," he added. "I want to be out here helping."

The university is also doing what it can to help. It is providing housing for families displaced by the disaster and for volunteers and out-of-town relief workers. It was also working with the Salvation Army to provide a distribution center for donated goods.

Related Topics:

Rare PA tornado damages homes

Wicked weather hits NE Texas

Tornado hits Michigan town

More links on Tornadoes

Find this article at:



DNN Sponsors include: