LAWRENCE COUNTY, Ala. – Ten years ago, an EF-5 tornado hit Lawrence County on April 27, 2011. The one tornado was responsible for all 14 of the county’s total deaths, including 12-year-old Aurelia Guzman.
A decade later, the Guzman family is still keeping their eyes on the sky.
“I believe with all my heart that she is in a better place,” said her father, Noe Guzman.
Her parents said Aurelia always lifted up others, with her love for her family, friends, softball and church.
“She wanted to make sure that I will be proud of her, no matter what,” said Noe. “She was very outgoing. She was very involved in the church. She loved praising God. She loved to be involved with a lot of activities in the church.”
Aurelia was the Guzman’s only daughter.
“She was a real talker,” her father said. “She loved to talk. She loved to communicate with people.”
Nine people took cover in the Guzman home on County Road 214 in Langtown, north of Moulton, when the EF-5 struck.
“I remember I was praying in the back porch or sunroom, and the only thing that I could say was ‘God let Your will be done, not my will but Your will and whatever you do I accept that.'” said Noe.
The tornado tossed everyone from the house trapping many of them under vehicles, including Aurelia.
“I remember one of the guys say, let’s go, you’re bleeding too much,” he said. “I said to them I’m not going until I know my daughter’s okay.”
Noe, his wife, Carolyn, and their two sons were all sent to hospitals to be treated for their injuries, but Aurelia did not survive.
In the decade since her passing, the Guzmans gather in their front yard every year on April 27 at 4:05 p.m. They pray and release balloons hoping to send their daughter the message that she will never be forgotten.
“It’s not easy to move forward, but you have to move forward, life moves on,” said Noe “It’s always that empty space that you can never fill, you can never forget that empty space.”
The Guzmans rebuilt their home on that same piece of property, but made sure to include a safe room in their new house.
“All the kids were born here,” said Carolyn. “We brought them home here and I don’t want to move. Why leave all the memories, just for a storm?”
Pictures of Aurelia adorn the Guzmans’ home, a cherry tree stands in front of Moulton Middle School and a retired jersey hangs at H.A. Alexander Park. These simple gestures help keep her memory alive, but they don’t erase the milestones missed.
“It’s been 10 years,” said Noe. “She could be married. My dream was to take her to the altar or do her 15 years. We call it quinceañera.”
The Guzmans also want to help educate others about what storms can steal from you.
“I want to share this because I don’t want other people to lose what I lost,” he said. “It is very important. When the people say, listen, it’s a tornado warning, don’t be a hero. Don’t take chances. Go somewhere before this thing hits. A home is not safe. A strong tornado can even take the concrete foundation, like it did in my home. So, this is why don’t take any chances, your children are very important.”
For now, the Guzmans wait for the ultimate reunion with their daughter.
“It just gives me peace a little bit,” said Carolyn, “knowing that I’ll see her again.”
They are trusting God’s plan and letting go of their pain.
“Her faith in God, it was very strong,” said Noe. “One of the last moments of her life on this earth, she said ‘pray.’ It was in her phone. She was asking the people to pray.”
Después de la muerte de su hija el 27 de abril de 2011, Noé Guzmán tiene un mensaje especial sobre el clima severo.