JACKSON COUNTY, Ala. – Morgan Sigler brought color to her parents’ world.
“She loved to make people laugh,” said her father, Al Sigler. “She had a very outgoing personality and she could always see the good in people.”
The University of Alabama graphic design major could also see the beauty in anything, as evidenced by her artwork dotting the Siglers’ living room.
Her pieces include an iron sculpture she dubbed the “Spinecone,” as well as a large metal piece.
“It’s got a woman holding an umbrella in the rain with wind blowing,” Al described. “We found that against the house. She was trying to weatherize it, that’s where the rust comes from, when all this happened.”
On April 27, 2011, an EF-4 tornado slashed through Tuscaloosa around 5:00 p.m.
“We didn’t know anything was going on,” said Al.
Nearly 190 miles away at the Siglers’ Bryant home in the northeast corner of Jackson County, Morgan’s parents, Al and Vega, were in the dark.
“We lost power and we lost cell phone and we didn’t know,” she said.
Then, the father of one of Morgan’s Tuscaloosa roommates came to the door.
“He said that house was hit and all those girls were okay, but Morgan was not there,” said Vega. “She had gone over to Blake’s house.”
Morgan’s boyfriend, Blake Peek, grew up not far from Morgan, about 30 miles away in Pisagh. He was set to start classes at the University of Alabama and living with one of Morgan’s longtime friends, Scott Atterton.
Scott graduated from North Sand Mountain High School alongside Morgan. He went to Alabama to become a history teacher and a basketball coach.
“Scott was one of those that would just say bring it in and he would give you big hugs type of fella,” said Al.
All three were in a home in the Cedar Crest neighborhood when the tornado hit. Rescuers found all three huddled together. They had been thrown from the home just northwest of the intersection of McFarland Boulevard and 15th Street.
Scott died instantly, but first responders rushed Blake and Morgan to DCH Regional Medical Center. At the same time, the Siglers raced to Tuscaloosa.
“We packed up our bags thinking we would be at the hospital for several days because we didn’t have a clue how bad it was,” said Al. “When we got to Tuscaloosa I’d never seen anything like that. It was unbelievable the damage that was done.”
When they arrived at the hospital, they were ushered into a separate room. There, they were shown pictures of the victims who didn’t survive.
“That’s when it really hit me that they think my daughter’s dead,” said Al. “And so I’m looking at the pictures and I’m like, I’m not sure this is my daughter. I couldn’t even recognize her.”
Morgan Sigler was 23 years old.
Blake Peek, 24 years old.
Scott Atterton, 23 years old.
“It’s a night you never forget,” said Al, “and you try not to think about it. It’s just so painful. We miss her and we just look forward to the day until we get to see her again.”
The Jackson County Chapter of the Alumni Association established an endowed scholarship in memory of all three.
To contribute to the scholarship, click here.
The Siglers remain grateful to the University for the care it showed Morgan, but they don’t go to Tuscaloosa much anymore.
“You got to go by the house that got picked up and thrown across the road that hurt her real bad,” Al said. “And then you got to drive by the hospital where she died. She was in the middle of surgery when she passed away.”
Instead they focus on their sons and grandchildren, as well as their faith.
“If it wasn’t for God, I couldn’t get through this,” said Al.
Al and Vega instilled those same values in their daughter. In addition to bunnies and her mother’s freshly baked dinner rolls, Morgan loved mission trips. After her death, her parents made it their mission to keep her legacy alive.
“I just felt like something good had to come out of it,” said Vega. “I felt like the coloring book was that.”
They created the Life of Christ Coloring Book. It combines Morgan’s artistry and her Christianity. It teaches the story of Jesus in multiple languages and has been used in Central America, South America and Africa.
As children all over the globe develop a relationship with Jesus, they also develop one with Morgan, which helps to brighten the world some for the Siglers.
“If somebody gets saved through this,” said Al, “that means something.”