The Dear Neighbor in Alabama

Posted by: Joanne Tromiczak-Neid, Justice Coordinator
Ginger K. Hedstrom, Justice Associate

Since receiving the notice that the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Montgomery, Alabama was celebrating its 40th Anniversary April 29-30, we have been planning to be present for the workshops, to meet with staff of the SPLC, to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and the National Voting Rights Museum, Selma, Alabama. We left Saint Paul early, Wednesday, April 27th.

By the time we landed in Alabama early yesterday afternoon, it was clear that the weather was turbulent, our flight from Chicago Midway Airport had to divert around storms and still it was so bumpy that the flight attendents sat buckled in their seats the entire flight. Several hours later we were tucked into our hotel in a valley near Hoover, south of Birmingham – restuarnts and businesses were closing, tornado sirens began blaring, the tornadoes were heading our way. We experienced heavy winds and rain, the skies black as night at 7:30 p.m., tree debris scratched our rental car. It was a very tense afternoon and night and that is all it was for us, very tense.

Today, April 28, we heard story after story of the impact on the people with whom we came into contact.
When asked “how are you and your family” and we heard:
1) Hotel housekeeper: I live in Birmingham and we got no ‘lectricty and don’t know when we will.
2) Woman hotel guest: I manage photography stores. One was destroyed but all my people are okay. I was supposed to go home to Pensacola tonight but can’t just yet.
3) Marathon Gas check out: my sister has a tree down on her house, but she is fine staying with her neighbors.
3) Ticket sales clerk at Birmingham Civil Rights Institute: I am fine. The patio door and bay windows in my daughter’s house were blown out – her garage door sprung – and all the windows of her car inside the garage blew out. Across the street the houses are gone just gone. She is okay, with friends.
4) Sales clerk Birmingham Civil Rights Institute: Me and my family is fine. We gettin’ water and food ready to take to the people who lost everything. We just gotta help them. Did you hear President Obama is coming tomorrow.
5) Manager, Texas Roadhouse Restaurant: She told us that two trucks of food and water were sen up today and we have people in the kitchen now cooking and getting ready to send more up tomorrow and Saturday. We put the food in lunch bags so each survivor or rescuer will have their own bag. We are all family and have to help out. My gramma was killed in a tornado years ago, it is hard to hear my mom tell about it. We just pitch in. When we were delivering the food today, a man told us he went out to clean his yard this morning and found two of his neighbors dead under a pile of debris in his yard. I just can’t imagine finding my neighbors like that!

People have been asked to stay out of the area so the emergency crews can get in and begin the recovery. The picture above is one published down here…we have honored the plea for citizens to stay out of the area so resources can go into the recovery.

As we drove the 88 miles from Birmingham to Montgomery on Highway 65 we saw caravans of National Guard jeeps, demolition trailers, generators, water trucks, sheriff’s cars, ambulances, and electric utility trucks all driving north to assist in the recovery.

Today is coming to a close. We are inspired by the generous spirits of people connecting in countless ways offering help and hope in the midst of such devistation.

Mahtomedi student’s film wins C-SPAN award

Sam Ostlund is a senior at Mahtomedi High School. His “decision to stop and talk to Brad, the homeless man he saw on a White Bear Avenue corner every day, turned out to be an award-winning idea”. (St. Paul Pioneer Press) “I knew absolutely nothing about it, coming into it, other than there was a homeless person on White Bear Avenue…I didn’t know if there was help out there.” Ostlund stated. Countless people do not see the person living with homelessness in our neighborhoods, on our street corners or ramp entrances. Sam really saw Brad, got to know him, made the decision to learn more about homelessness that is pervasive in this economy. He then made the film Homeless that won third place in the C-SPAN filmmaking contest. A resident of Grant, MN and student at Mahtomedi High School, Ostlund plans to share the monetary award for Homeless with Brad. (this post quotes the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Mahtomedi student’s film wins C-SPAN award,” April 12, 2011)

Saturday at the Movies: Made In L. A.

Saturday, April 16, 10:00 a.m. – Noon 1890 Randolph Avenue, St. Paul. In support of humane immigration reform, this film and discussion focus on this Emmy Award-winner in the Outstanding Coverage of a News Story -Long Form. FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC. Snacks and beverages provided. For more information call: 651.690.7054. Presented by: Immigration Working Group of the Justice Commission of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and Consociates

The Basilica of St. Mary is featuring an exhibit of paintings and icons by Father John Giuliani, an icon artist known for depicting Jesus and the saints in the faces of Native American peoples. Father Giuliani states, “My intent in depicting Christian saints as Native Americans is to honor them and to acknowledge their original presence on this land.”

Andean Good Shepherd, oil on canvas

The exhibit in the Pope John XXIII gallery runs through May 8: Gallary hours: Saturdays: 10:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. Sundays: 7:30 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. For more information: Basilica of St. Mary