I was touched by an email I received yesterday from Deb Rose, a dear friend who lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. As you recall, the destruction from the recent spate of tornadoes was particularly devastating to the city of Tuscaloosa, home to the University of Alabama. The mayor there, Walt Maddox, has exhibited extraordinary leadership in the face of a city wrecked by disaster. I appreciate the way he’s woven his faith and focus together to lead the city through the crisis.
After the tornado struck April 27, the chaplain of the police dept. drove the mayor around to see the devastation. After seeing two horrible areas, they were heading into the third when the mayor said to stop. They pulled over & had prayer and then the mayor started making decisions. First, he called the governor knowing that the task was too large for the city.
Less than 3 hours after the storm, the mayor addressed the media. After painting the grim picture, he said that he had found strength in Romans 12:12 (read). Then, he took questions. Last week, he said it was his belief in God that kept him moving forward. He said, “my faith kept me strong through this because I knew that I was not alone in this journey & anytime I had those moments of self-doubt, I could rely on my faith & be strengthened.”
His leadership & self-confidence inspired others. The thing he has said over, & over, & over is “we are not going to let these people down.”
He held press conferences daily, more than once daily, in the early days. He spends 2 hours out in the field each day, yet stays at city hall until 9 pm. He has said the he felt each of the 41 deaths. And, he has admitted that, on more than one occasion, when his body & mind finally forced him to stop working, he was helpless to stop the tears.
He said, “my heart is broken for what has happened to so many in our community & I feel desperately a sense that I need to grieve but I just don’t have time.”
A FEMA official said “this city is absolutely a model for disaster response.”
At 38, this first-term mayor is very popular, & for sure way beyond his years, now.
In fairness, the entire northern half of the state was devastated. This was the worst national outbreak of tornadoes since 1934. Alabama alone had 45 of them. The response from across the country with volunteers has been equally as impressive.