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franklin county times

‘I’m with Phil’ does a great job telling story

When April 27, 2011, rolled around on the calendar, I was not a resident of Franklin County.

I was a senior at the University of North Alabama when the tornadoes ripped through the state on that day that none of us would forget.

I still remember my roommate and I waking up that morning knowing full well that we were supposed to get bad weather that day.

We were desensitized to all of the weather hearsay over the years by ominous reports that turned out to be unfounded worrying.

My roommate said that he didn’t believe anything would happen that day, because it never seemed to when the weatherman made grim predictions.

April 27 would prove us wrong.

Those musings by us occurred around 10 a.m.

By that afternoon I was looking at footage of the storms on YouTube. I eventually saw the videos of tornadoes that hit both Tuscaloosa and Phil Campbell.

Even though I was not personally affected by the storms, I knew people that were.

My roommate is from Cordova, one of the many places hit.

His grandmother had some damage done to her home by falling trees, but otherwise the family escaped unharmed.

I was not from Phil Campbell, but I had a friend at UNA that was. Walker Kennerly, a 2009 graduate of Phil Campbell High School, was a regular at our lunch and dinner table at school.

UNA was a bit of a strange place for me, in that I had friends that I never had a class with, yet I knew certain people simply because we ate at the same table during meals in the cafeteria.

Walker was one of those people. He was absent from school for a few days after the storm, which was no surprise to anyone.

Hearing stories from him when he got back was the closest look I had to the devastation in Phil Campbell at the time, other than driving through the town.

I heard about the documentary “I’m with Phil” not long after the events depicted in the film.

I knew that a UNA student was putting it together, but I had never met him. I was a regular around the Communications Building at UNA, being a journalism major, so I knew Professor Flynn and was familiar with some of the people who helped put the film together.

I had yet to see the documentary before it was screened at Northwest-Shoals Thursday night so I attended the showing.

Who I saw in the building when I got there was no surprise: my friend Walker.

He is a staple around Phil Campbell (especially basketball games), so I decided to go say hello to him.

I ended up sitting beside him during the movie, but beforehand we did some catching up about our days since my departure from UNA.

I thought it was very fitting that I was watching a documentary about Phil Campbell while sitting beside the first person I ever knew from the town. I was unaware of a lot of the information contained in the film, and overall I thought it was great.

It told the story of the Phils and the efforts of the town to move on after the storms very well.

I may not have been a resident of Franklin County during the events of April 27, but I became steeped in the history, if you will, of it all after I moved here.

I saw first hand what damage had been done to the school and to the different parts of town.

I have since photographed some of the damaged areas and interviewed coaches and athletes about there efforts to move on after the devastation.

I was outside of the happenings of the day at the time, but now that I live here and work at The Franklin County Times I have a front-row seat to the rebuilding of both the town and the lives it affected.

I did not participate in the cleanup efforts or volunteer at any of the areas hit by the storms (still a regret on my part), but helping to tell the story of the town overcoming adversity and rebuilding from the ashes makes me feel like I have helped out in some small way.

I hope that the documentary gets shown to more and more people so that awareness of the goings on after the storms gets brought to the attention of more people.

Even if increased showings doesn’t necessarily bring increased relief efforts, at least the story will be told, and any story worth telling is a story worth hearing.