On April 27th, 2011, an EF-4 tornado rolled across Tuscaloosa. Nine students from the University of Alabama and surrounding colleges were among the 53 people killed. The mother of one of those students still makes the trip from Wetumpka to Tuscaloosa at least once a month to remember and reflect.
Ashley Mims says it's tough returning to the college town where her daughter, Loryn Brown died.
“My baby was here. Her stuff was here," said Ashley, as she stood on the curb of the street where Loryn died. "Her life ended here and it's just a place I can come."
Loryn was killed when almost two dozen trees crushed the house she shared with two other girls. One of her roommates was Danielle Downs from Priceville. She died along with Loryn and one of their friends, Will Stevens of Priceville.
Out of the rubble, another house has been built. There are new tenants. Four trees have been planted to remember the lives lost and the lone surviving roommate. There's a weeping cherry for Danielle, a dogwood for Will and a magnolia for Loryn.
"That is the perfect tree because, it's the perfect Southern tree for our perfect little Southern Belle," said Ashley.
Recovered from the rubble, Loryn's high school diploma, and this book that weathered the storm. She had put a flower inside between two pages of a poem called Angels Among Us. On the back of a desk calendar, she'd written a line from the song, “The End of Time” by Beyonce and Justin Timberlake. It says, “Cause if your love was all I had in this life, that would be enough until the end of time.”
“I just feel like she was leaving it for us,” said Ashley, holding the calendar. "She left this for me to find and for me to have to hold onto, to read every day in the times when it's hard. You know, she left it for me."
Ashley had a quilt made from some of Loryn's clothes. It’s a quilt that a mother can wrap around her and remember her child.
“Sometimes when I think about it, I can still feel her arms wrapped around me. I can still feel that last real hug. That last one," Ashley said.
There have been a lot of tough days the past year but one of the toughest was the day fall classes started at Bama. Ashley didn’t expect it to be a tough day but says, “It just hit me.” Loryn had been taking classes at Shelton State Community College but had been accepted and would have started classes last August at Alabama.
But perhaps the toughest time was the day after the tornado when she returned to where the storm had taken Loryn's life. Ashley was looking for the white dress Loryn had worn three days earlier to Easter services. She wanted to bury her daughter in that dress. You won’t believe who found it in the rubble. Find out in our story Thursday on WHNT News 19 at 10:00, “The White Dress.”