February 4, 2023

Bettie McKinney’s grandson called her in the early hours Wednesday to warn her about a tornado that ripped through Flatwood, a small community north of Montgomery where she lives.

The tornado ripped off part of McKinney’s roof, broke four windows, and drove a pole through her trailer. McKinney said she probably would have died if her grandson hadn’t called.

“It was God’s doing,” she said.

As the storm calmed, McKinney looked out the window at the devastation wreaking havoc on her neighborhood.

“I’ve never seen anything so bad,” she said.

Two days later, McKinney stood outside her home wrapped in a blanket while men from the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief cleared debris from her yard.

McKinney doesn’t know how to rebuild her house. She said she takes things one step at a time.

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However, she said she was overwhelmed by the number of people who arrived in Flatwood to help after the storm. She said people she doesn’t even know “show their love for us.”

Vickie Griffith, a Clanton-based Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief chaplain, stood with McKinney outside her home Friday.

“We only serve missions because we’re Christians, and that’s part of the Christian mission,” Griffith said.

About 55 high school and middle school students from Valiant Cross Academy joined the cleanup Friday morning, said Anthony Brock, who helped found the academy and serves as principal. About 10 employees came to help as well.

“They all wanted to come,” Brock said.

Brock stressed that tragedy could happen to anyone. He hopes the experience will teach his students to be compassionate.

“Here in Montgomery, we believe we’re all family,” he said.

Tornado casualties:The Montgomery community mourns the deaths of a mother and son killed in a tornado

Grady Hicks was also in Flatwood on Friday morning helping patch up his friend’s house and clearing debris from the yard.

“(We’re) up here cleaning up right now,” Hicks said.

Two trees fell on Alfonza Burch’s home during the storm. Both his roof and floor need repairs, and although Burch doesn’t have insurance and doesn’t know how to fix his house, he trusts the Lord to take care of him.

“Whatever God gives, that will be it,” he said.

Burch said if he could survive the death of his mother in 2005, he could handle the aftermath of the storm.

“If I can deal with death, I know I can deal with it,” he said.

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