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Enterprise, Alabama

by Geraldo Rivera | Mar 02, 2007

Listen to Kayla Todd, one of the injured students describe what it was like when the twister hit her school. "The lights flickered off and they told all of us to just get down and the next thing I know everything-debris is flying everywhere. One hall the roof is completely caved-in and as far as I know, one of my friends was up under it and I'm just worried that she's not okay. But its just-it was so scary."

Marisa Yunanian is another injured student survivor of Thursday's killer tornado.

"I was watching through a near-by glass doors and window and I could see it getting darker and darker and then trees started flying and things started hitting the roof and the door. And then it all came at once and we all just covered our heads and prayed for it to be over..."

By the time it was over, and the tornado had carved its deep slice of destruction through Enterprise, five boys and three girls, all 16 or 17 years old were dead, dozens of students were injured, and the high school, pride of the town that calls itself "The City of Progress" was utterly destroyed.

"The heart of a community like Enterprise, Alabama," said the President today, "is the school. And today I have walked through devastation that's hard to describe. Our thoughts, of course, go out to the students who perished."

And though he brought the tangible promise of federal disaster aid to the tornado stricken region, the value of the Healer-in-Chief's visit today to Enterprise and later to another stricken southern town, Americus, Georgia is not just calculated in dollars.

"Because right now, even aside from the immediate damage we are worried about what is going to happen to us," worried Marisa.  "Maybe in the next couple of months, are we going to go to school, are they going to make some place for us to go? So, I guess having the President come down it makes people feel better, me at least."

With an army of professional and volunteer aid workers already on scene, the physical scars from the devastating storm will be gone long before the heartbreak. Clutching their own children, Amber and Grey Woods are volunteers. He's on the Fire Rescue Team. She worked the morgue Thursday night.

"It was devastating. Words can't really explain the heartache and the tragedy that we experienced last night."
 
The Woods pointed out as bad as it was, it could have been far worse. There's an elementary school just across the way from the high school. If that storm had just been a few hundred meters in the opposite direction, the little children also might have been victimized, because the killer tornado was as capricious as it was violent. On one side of the street, utter devastation, on the other, homes like Willie Green's were virtually untouched.

"You lost a couple of shingles, I mean, you feel very lucky?" I asked the elderly grandmother who still held her two little grandsons tightly.

"Very blessed. My grandsons, they was afraid. And the little one was on my back. I couldn't get him off of my back. He said, 'I don't want it to come in here, Gram-I don't want it to come."

'The walls and the roof and everything collapsed and I was standing under there for like a minute or two or maybe three and everything was on my right shoulder." 18-year old Petey Kincey, a star of the Enterprise Wildcats powerful basketball team was buried under the rubble. Having just received a full scholarship to Alabama A & M, he now has to work through injuries that include a fractured wrist. But the injuries his parents, Pastor Ulysses and Jean Kincey have are emotional. They're angry that early warnings of the storm's approach didn't lead school officials to evacuate the students before the tornado hit.

"Do you think the students should have been sent home sooner? Do you fault anybody about that?" I asked the mom.

"Yes I do, cause they were notified earlier. I heard about 10 o'clock. And they should have been sent home then, not wait. Because you cant time no storm, because you can't specify what time its goin hit or not hit. So when you was notified that the storm was on its way, let the kids go home."

"Pastor, do you feel any of that anger?

"Yes sir, yes sir, I do. I heard something about if they stayed until 1:00 then they wouldn't have to make the day up---they make the day. Now, that might be right and that might be wrong, but if they were holdin the children just so they would not make a day up, then its absolutely wrong."

While the anger felt by the Kincey's is understandable, Alabama Governor Bob Riley and others have defended the actions of school administrators. In the face of a monster storm striking at random, the school was one of the town's sturdiest buildings. That it suffered so savage a blow is just the worst luck.

"I met with the president of the student body, who recognizes that the end of her senior year is going to be difficult." Said the President. "But as a student leader, she will have the opportunity to help people rebuild and that she will learn---and the classmates will learn that out of the devastation can come hope and a better tomorrow."

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