For the 35 new residents of the recently restored Rosedale Community in Birmingham who gathered on a recent winter morning, there was a feeling a little like that expressed by Alicia Keys in her latest hit, “A Brand New Kind of Me,” which includes the lines, “It took a long, long road to get here. It took a brave new girl to try.”
Many of these residents were residents of the original Rosedale Community that was destroyed by the storms of April 2011. They could tell you stories of that terrifying day, when lives hung in the balance and nothing short of a miracle kept so many residents from harm. Anyone looking at the rubble in the days after the storms knew what a miracle it was that so few lives were lost. But those days were also the beginning of a long, long road to recovery. Former residents will tell you how they drove or walked by the construction site almost daily to see the progress, to dream of the day when they could return to the community that some had called home for decades.
They can tell you tales of working with FEMA and all of the other public and private agencies who offered them help in putting their lives back together. And they can tell you what a long, long road it has been from that faithful day in April 2011 to this day of celebration. Along with city, county, state, and federal officials, the residents met to celebrate the completion of Phase I which includes 88 beautifully designed units and the public commitment to complete Phase II of the project, which will bring back 86 additional units.
One of the thirty five residents occupying the initial units in Phase I is 54 year old Wesley Halman, who at the ceremony said, “After the tornado, I didn’t think they’d be able to rebuild. But God changes things, and by him sending the destruction like he did – while we were all sad at the time, we can now see the progress that’s been made.”
Hollis Wormsby is a Senior Management Analyst in the Alabama HUD field office.