New beginning for Tuscaloosa church
There's another symbol of recovery in Tuscaloosa. More than two years after a massive EF-4 tornado roared through, the Congregation of Central Church of Christ dedicated their new place of worship.
It's a day Justin Miller will never forget. "We all just jumped down on our knees, things started crashing around us."
He and five other college students survived the April 27th tornado by taking cover in a utility closet inside Central Church of Christ.
Miller says "We survived together and we're so thankful to God and give all credit to him because it would have been so easy for anything to happen."
The church that became their shield, crumbled around them.
Church member, Debbye Thorne says,"The shock of seeing our building totally devastated, still hits me even today."
Church members took action, feeding thousands. A concrete slab became a place of refuge. Thorne says, "We had people come by and see what we're doing and say how can we help."
And that support helped create this special Sunday. After spending more than two years meeting at the Alabama Fire College.. the congregation dedicated their new house of worship in its original location on Hargrove Road. Minister Lee Jamieson says "All the people that have helped us out, the people to the hearts and love that went into this are for more important than the brick and mortar."
It was an emotional day of reflection for many. Prayer, song and thanks went out to numerous people and groups who helped re-build this beacon of light. "We were under insured and when the tragedy hit, we were not prepared financially, so what it required was a lot of soul searching from within. Members had to give a lot, but we also found out there's a lot of people in the community and country that care a lot for us."
But memories are still preserved. Minister Jamieson will stand behind the original pulpit and they found this sign posted the day the storm hit. Those reminders will help the congregation move forward.
Miller says, "Now we have a student center, youth room and we can use those to help the community."
Thorne says "Our focus is on the future."
Jamieson says the church also wants to build a new auditorium to replace the one lost in the storm. The site is also the start of a project that will be part of the Walk of Remembrance throughout the path of destruction in Tuscaloosa.