“We can relate” – In light of Texas relief efforts, local police officers remember April 27 recovery

GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. -- Harvey has Texas in a national spotlight right now. It wasn't long ago when a natural disaster thrust Alabama into the same position. First responders locally say they can understand what rescue crews are going through in Texas, because they lived a similar situation for weeks.

"When we were struck by the tornadoes on April 27, 2011, as everyone can remember, it was a very unusual experience in the fact that the damage was so widespread," said Guntersville Police Chief Jim Peterson.

"My son was three years old at the time. He still remembers it," said Arab Police Assistant Chief Shane Washburn, "He was in the shelter and daddy went out into the storms. That was probably one of the most heart wrenching times I had, because I didn't know if he was going to be okay, didn't know if I was going to be okay. Didn't know exactly what was going to happen."

The tornadoes across Alabama were deadly and damaging, but the job was just starting for police and first responders. "A lot of us were affected personally at home," Peterson remembered, "Then we had to come into work everyday for 12 hours, or 14, or 16 hours, so it was personally challenging for all of us to do."

That response lasted weeks in Marshall County.  "We were here most of the time. This became our home," Washburn said of the police department, "We worked 16 hours straight. A lot of us slept in the courtroom."

"Being servants we accept that we're going to be pushed and challenged and we're okay with that, but I'm not going to tell you that it wasn't hard, either," Peterson said.

In Texas, the natural disaster is different, but the response is the same.

"We can relate," Washburn said, "We know that when we see those workers out there, they're there. They're there for as long as this is going to last."

"You see a lot of tragedy and a lot of heartache, and the only thing you can do is try to ask yourself why you do this," Peterson said, "Am I making a difference or can I be proud of what I'm doing? If you can dig that out of yourself that's enough to keep you going and to make you want to come back and do it again."

An employee from the Guntersville Police Department is going to Texas to help. Also, the Marshall County Swift Water Rescue Team is going to lend a hand.