NORTHEAST ALABAMA -- Five years ago Wednesday, while families huddled in their homes or shelters as tornado after tornado ripped through cities and towns, law enforcement put on their uniforms and went out to take care of their communities.
"It was a true outbreak for us," Jackson County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Rocky Harnen says, "It wasn't just one storm. It was numerous storms that hit."
It was all hands on deck at the Jackson County Sheriff's office on April 27, 2011 as tornadoes tore through Jackson County. There were multiple deaths.
Harnen was one of the deputies who worked around the clock helping others across the county. "My daughter was in Tuscaloosa," Harnen says, "I didn't know there was a storm that hit there."
Amid caring for others, Harnen finally got a chance to call his wife, who told him their daughter was OK. "She said, 'You haven't heard about Tuscaloosa?' and I said, 'no.' She said it got destroyed. Her house actually got destroyed," Harnen says.
In neighboring Marshall County, Arab was hit hard. Again, multiple fatalities.
"It was a terrible day," Arab Police Assistant Chief Shane Washburn says.
Washburn joined every other officer on the force at Arab Police that day, helping where needed.
"I had to leave my son," Washburn said, "I was working nights at that time period."
Washburn's son was three at the time. "He still remembers that daddy had to leave and go out into the storms," Washburn says.
For Harnen, Washburn and countless other officers, facing a situation where others are turning away is their job.
Five years ago though, not knowing if their own families were OK was hard.
"It's just what we do, and we do it gladly," Harnen says, "It's serving the community, but you do take away from your family."