Birmingham Celebrations Mark Tragic Tornado
Habitat for Humanity, Alabama Power, Birmingham Barons to lead festivities on anniversary of deadly tornado
Birmingham, Ala. - April 1, 1999 - On April 8, 1998, a tornado ripped through Birmingham, Ala., killing 16 and leaving thousands without safe shelter. One year later, the southern city will gather to mark the deadly anniversary with a week of special events. But far from somber, the week's activities will celebrate the city's dramatic recovery from the tornado's fury.
Led by Birmingham Habitat for Humanity along with Alabama Power, minor league baseball's Birmingham Barons and several Birmingham businesses and churches, the city will engage in a week-long celebration of new housing, new opportunity and a renewed sense of community. Celebrations will also raise money for continued Habitat for Humanity homebuilding.
"The tornado was obviously a tragedy," said Jan Bell, executive director of Birmingham Habitat for Humanity, "but what has come from it has been a triumph. We have seen the entire community rise to the awful occasion and help those in need, rebuild our neighborhoods and discover that we are united in our service to each other."
Celebrations begin Saturday April 3, (1:30 p.m.) with a pre-season Major League Baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Philadelphia Phillies at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium. A home run-hitting contest will raise more than $20,000 for future Habitat for Humanity house construction.
On Wednesday, April 7, Alabama Power will begin on a Habitat for Humanity home "blitz build" home. Construction will be completed in 24 hours.
The next morning, the one year anniversary of the tornado, Birmingham Mayor Larry P. Langford, Alabama Power CEO Elmer Harris and Habitat for Humanity International President and Founder Millard Fuller,, will host a "work clothes" prayer breakfast at the Fairfield civic center. Civic leaders, local clergy, and Birmingham business leaders will gather for prayer and to commit themselves to continued Habitat rebuilding.
After the prayer breakfast, those gathered will travel in caravan to several Habitat work sites, where six homes will be dedicated and five more homes will be started. All the work sites were damaged significantly by the tornado. Alabama Gov. Don Seigelman has been invited to take part in the dedications and building projects.
Celebrations will climax with a city-wide celebration at Hoover Metropolitan Stadium at the Birmingham Barons' season opener.
"We are honored to be the host site for this community-wide salute to the thousands of tornado volunteers and victims," said the Barons' General Manager Tony Ensor. "The Barons are a successful sports franchise because we are supported by this community. When the community was devasted by the tornado, we knew we had to respond. That is why this team has committed to build at least one Habitat for Humanity home in Birmingham this summer."
At the game Birmingham's Unmet Needs Committee for Disaster Recovery will honor more than 5,000 Birmingham residents who volunteered in tornado recovery efforts will be honored, as well as more than 1,000 tornado victims. A special video presentation will honor the work of all public and private agencies who assisted in tornado-recovery, including the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the United Way and Habitat for Humanity. Habitat President Millard Fuller, a former minor league pitcher, will throw out the game's first pitch. A silent auction of baseball memorabilia will be held throughout the game to benefit Habitat's work in Birmingham. Habitat for Humanity will also be selling Habitat "Home Team" baseball jerseys and hats.
"The entire community has turned an awful, ugly story into one of hope and excitement," said Bell. "Habitat couldn't be more grateful."
Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to eliminating poverty housing worldwide. Habitat brings together people with resources and people in need to build simple, decent, affordable houses. The homes are sold to those in need at no profit, through no-interest loans. Founded in 1976 by Millard Fuller along with his wife Linda, Habitat for Humanity has built more than 70,000 houses, providing shelter for more than 350,000 people worldwide. It has affiliates in every state of the United States and in 60 other countries around the world.