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Taking Care of Tuscaloosa

Dicky Pride is again ready to raise funds to assist those trying to recover from the devastating tornado that hit Tuscaloosa, Ala.
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May 6, 2011

TUSCALOOSA, Ala.—As I looked at the TV screen, the area looked familiar. It was a strip mall I was seeing, and suddenly I knew. I could see where the Krispy Kreme doughnut store had stood despite the devastation I was seeing, I knew that’s where the AT&T store was, where La Fiesta and the pawn shop used to stand. And I could see where Stephanie’s Flowers was, the flower shop I called earlier in the day to order flowers for the funeral of a friend.
Now the strip mall where the flower shop had stood was gone, with rubble strewn everywhere. There was also a tree, with no bark, ripped from its roots lying on its side.

What I was looking at were images near 15th Street in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in the immediate aftermath of the tornadoes that hit there on April 27. I recognized the intersection—15th Street and McFarland Boulevard—and couldn’t believe it. I knew what that area is supposed to look like, and compared to what it looks like now, it was very devastating.

I grew up in Tuscaloosa, I went to college at the University of Alabama, my mom and sister still live there, and it’s just horrific what has happened to my hometown. I hadn’t seen the damage for myself until Friday night when I arrived.

The tornado was estimated to be a mile wide when it hit, and it stayed on the ground for what the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is saying was 176 miles. But there are some who estimate it may have stayed down for as many as 300 miles as it traveled through Alabama and Georgia. It was definitely an F5 tornado, with wind estimates reaching 260 mph. So you can just imagine what something that powerful is able to do. I read an account of a sign from Milo’s, a fast-food restaurant there, that was ripped off by the winds and dropped 70 miles away on the other side of Birmingham.

As the tornado bore down on the city, I was in Arkansas attending the funeral for a member of my wife’s family. With the storm gathering strength, I was talking to my mom on the phone while it was spinning overhead. The cell signal would come and go, but I was able to make sure my mom and sister were OK. The tornado never touched down where they live. They had some property damage but nothing substantial, and for that I’m grateful.

As I was talking to my mom, I had The Weather Channel on the TV. I also had my iPad that was showing the live, streaming video from one of the local stations while the tornado was happening. As you might imagine, my stress level was off the charts. You get those videos coming in, and it was absolutely sickening to see.
So although I live in Orlando, I’m Alabama through and through. On the tee at any event I play, I’m still announced out of Tuscaloosa. That’s how I feel about my home, so when this happened I knew I needed to do something to help.

I’m very proud to be part of an organization, the PGA TOUR, that is about charity and helping people. Pardon the pun, but that’s a great source of pride for me because that’s what this TOUR does. I think of Kelly Gibson in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit and Phil Tataurangi in Christchurch, New Zealand, with the recent earthquake there.

Beyond the running of professional golf tournaments, what a lot of people don’t realize is I belong to an organization that steps up and says, “We’re going to help.” There’s no if; just how and when.

Much of Tuscaloosa is destroyed, and much is going to need to be rebuilt. It’s going to be a long journey to do that, so I want to help in that process.
The tornadoes hit less than two weeks ago, and already there has been a terrific effort to help with cleanup and helping the people who are homeless get back on their feet. Yet there are still people missing. And those who are presumed dead, their bodies have not been located. It’s just so traumatic, and there is so much that will need to be done for many months—even years—to come.

My goal is to not only raise awareness, but to also, hopefully, help people understand the depth of what has happened. In turn, maybe it will inspire them to help out.

The Red Cross lost its building, and the Red Cross in Alabama needs a lot of help. The PGA TOUR has committed $100,000 to the Red Cross. Combine that with the $1 million that Regions Bank is donating, announced last week at the Champions Tour’s Regions Tradition in Birmingham, and that money will go a long way toward making a huge difference in people’s lives.

I had someone ask me the other day why I was so passionate about this. All I can say is it’s my hometown, and it’s full of people I care about.

Editor’s Note: Dicky Pride turned professional in 1992 and joined the PGA TOUR in 1993. He won his lone PGA TOUR title, the Federal Express St. Jude Classic, in 1994 and currently splits his time between the PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour.

READ MORE ABOUT: Dicky Pride , Community , Disaster Relief
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