MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

President Obama is telling storm victims in Alabama they will not be forgotten. The president and First Lady Michelle Obama toured parts of Tuscaloosa that were destroyed by the deadly cluster of tornados that tore through the South this week.

NPR's Debbie Elliott reports.

DEBBIE ELLIOTT: The sheer magnitude of the destruction Tuscaloosa is difficult to comprehend until you are here and seeing street after street reduced to rubble - homes, stores, warehouses, parks. President Obama acknowledged the scope as he toured some of the hardest hit areas.

President BARACK OBAMA: I've got to say, I've never seen devastation like this. It is heartbreaking.

ELLIOTT: He visited with storm victims in Alberta City, an area that suffered a high death toll. Most of the community was flattened. Mr. Obama told survivors they would get federal help.

Pres. OBAMA: I want to just make a commitment to the communities here that we are going to do everything we can to help these communities rebuild.

ELLIOTT: In the Lynnwood neighborhood, not far from the president's tour, mockingbirds are singing from fallen tree limbs and there's the distant sound of chainsaws in the air. Just like President Obama, residents here are still trying to figure out just what hit their quaint street.

(Soundbite of birds chirping)

Ms. DEBBIE MCGLONE (Teacher): That door came from somebody else's house and it's on my bed.

ELLIOTT: Teacher Debbie McGlone(ph) has lived in this house since she was six years old. It's unlivable now. The roof was ripped away.

Ms. MCGLONE: Even now it's strange. When we're working in the bedrooms, I'll expect to - I'll think, it's so bright in here, and I'll look and I see the sky. And I think, man, you know, it's just the - I don't know how to describe it.

ELLIOTT: She says it's hard to find words that express what the town has lost.

Ms. MCGLONE: It's like looking at a dead person and there's that body that you're so familiar with and you're emotionally attached to and you have all these sentimental memories about and you think, they can't be dead. And that's how this is. You know, I look at the grass. OK, this is our grass and there's the mailbox. And see the little tree and all that? But then, look, you know, it's just gone.

ELLIOTT: As McGlone and her niece work to salvage what they can, a group of employees from the nearby Target store come by with grocery carts full of water and other provisions.

Unidentified Woman: Water, sandwiches, fruit.

Ms. MCGLONE: I wouldn't mind some water. Just one water.

Unidentified Woman: OK.

ELLIOTT: There have also been church groups and National Guard troops coming through the neighborhood offering to help. Next door, Philip Farley's(ph) Farmers Insurance agent Amy Corbin is sorting through the rubble for keepsakes.

Ms. AMY CORBIN (Agent, Farmers Insurance): Is this your mom's valuables?

Mr. PHILIP FARLEY: It's my wife's.

ELLIOTT: Farley is glad the president came to see the damage firsthand.

Mr. FARLEY: Maybe he can see what's going on so he'll know how to help us.

ELLIOTT: He thinks it's time to look to the future.

Mr. FARLEY: You know, a lot of people were hurt or killed and, you know, they'll be missed. And the ones that are here, you know, will live on and, you know, we'll rebuild. We'll better than we were before. I think this neighborhood will turn out really good when it's over 'cause we got a lot of good neighbors. And I remember after the storm we all walked out in the middle of the street and we're, like, can't believe we're all here.

ELLIOTT: As towns seek to rebuild, federal aid is now available. Last night President Obama signed a major disaster declaration for Alabama.

Debbie Elliott, NPR News, Tuscaloosa.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.