By Philip Shucet
Special for the
Opelika Observer

After an especially hungry and angry tornado chewed into homes along Lee Road 100, the funnel moved to Lee Road 36. Alina Smith and her two daughters huddled for safety in the bathroom.
When I met her on March 6, Alina told me that she held her daughters, said her prayers, was at peace, and accepted that it was time for them “to go.” But we don’t pick our time. Alina and her daughters were spared that day.
Twenty-three others were not.
Not far away Alina’s boyfriend, Curvin Robinson, scrambled from his yard and made it to the kitchen before he hit the floor and curled in a fetal position in front of his refrigerator. Curvin would find out that of the 23 dead, seven were from the same family. His family. What do you say to someone who peacefully looks in your eyes and tells you that death scooped away seven members of his family 48 hours earlier? I did not know then. I don’t know now. But I know that Alina and Curvin share a bond forged from misery, stronger in love.
Relying on information from news reports I navigated Lee County roads to Smith’s Station and Beauregard, both hard-hit.
Sheriff’s deputies from Lee and Calhoun counties were pulling double duty to block roads leading to the most heavily damaged areas. I respected those restrictions realizing that searches were still underway for missing persons. On roads that were not blocked the powerful force of destruction was evident. Force that in an instant turned a peaceful pre-Lent Sunday into devastation and death. Force that lifted and smashed a trailer into trees as if the home had been a blowing leaf in a spring-like wind.
Why did I go to Alabama?
Truth is, I’m not sure. Maybe I wanted to bear witness. Maybe I wanted to see things I had never seen before. Maybe I needed to be reminded of just how small I am. Maybe I needed to see just how strong other people are. Or maybe I wanted to know that there is more good in the hearts of women and men than we are led to believe. I wanted to know that humanity prevails.
It does.
I’m going back to Alabama to see Alina, Curvin and others at Easter; a time for resurrection and rebirth.
A time to record the next chapter of their story.
I’ve come to realize that there is nothing more powerful than an individual’s story. We are born into a story. And every day afterward we create and shape new ones. Your story doesn’t just live in your head and heart. It is your skin.
Nothing is more powerful than your story.
About the Author Shucet retired last year after wrapping up 45 years in corporate America. He has a searing passion for photographing people and telling their stories.
He currently lives in Norfolk, Virginia.
Publisher’s Note:
Mr. Shucet approached us with the offer to share his photographs and the stories he collected through talking to those deeply affected by the March 3 tornadoes. He believes that these stories need to be told not only now, but also later as he returns to check in with people and see how they are doing. He has graciously asked us to be the outlet for these stories and it is our privilege and honor to do so.