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FDA seniors help with cleanup

Fort Dale Academy senior Murphy Middleton almost couldn’t believe her eyes.

“If that had been me I would have been sitting in a corner somewhere crying,” she said. “The things we saw were just unbelievable.”

Middleton, along with the rest of Fort Dale’s senior class, spent Monday assisting with the cleanup in Pleasant Grove, which was devastated by the deadly tornado outbreak on April 27.

Each year, Fort Dale’s senior class takes on a community service project. The project is normally done locally, but with much of north and central Alabama still recovering after a string a tornadoes swept threw the state, the school decided to chip in with the recovery process.

“We thought maybe we could do something – anything,” Fort Dale headmaster David Brantley said.

“This was a chance for these kids to go up there to one of the worst affected areas and help out however they could, and they worked hard. I think it was a day that they won’t soon forget. Education is about more than just math and science, and I think the students learned something from this that will be with them for a long time.”

The students assisted primarily with debris removal at private residences in the area. The task was overwhelming.

“When the bus stopped and we got out, I told someone that I didn’t even know where to start,” senior Chance Williams said. “There was just so much damage and debris.”

Senior Jessie Langford even spotted a trampoline hung in the top of a tree.

“It was unbelievable,” she said of the damage. “I was shocked.”

Senior Manny Norrell said the trip gave him a better perspective on just how destructive the storm was.

“You see pictures on the news, but they don’t do it justice,” he said. “Until you see it, you don’t realize how messed up everything is up there. Even after having seen pictures of the damage it’s still surprising when you see it in person.”

Williams agreed.

“I wasn’t expecting what I saw,” he said. “I had seen the pictures, but when we got there I saw that everything was destroyed. Everything was gone.”

Seeing the plight of their fellow Alabamians motivated the seniors to work as hard as they could.

“Seeing that, you keep going no matter how hard it is,” senior Sydni Boutwell said.

“It was life changing,” Middleton said. “How many times do you get the chance to go and help someone like that? It was heartbreaking to see how things went from normal to being completely destroyed. It made you want to do whatever you could to help.”

According to Langford, the day, which began at 5:45 a.m. and ended at 8 p.m., was both physically and emotionally exhausting.

“It was a tiring day, but it was nice to be able to help people who really needed it,” she said. “It felt good to help out.”

Southside Baptist, Mt. Pleasant Baptist and Antioch East provided transportation to and from Pleasant Grove.