It’s a mostly sunny Friday on Rudy Abbott Field at Jim Case Stadium. Baseball teams for Jacksonville State and Purdue warm up, and the look out from the press box serves up beautiful normalcy.
Pete Mathews Coliseum is open for business, with new, black paint touches the only visible hint of extensive repairs done in the last year. The Houston-Cole Library’s new red roof looks nearly done from here, and cars enter and exit the rebuilt Dollar General parking lot just down Highway 204.
It’s a nice place to be, nearly a year after the March 19, 2018, tornado wrecked this scene … even nicer, a day after another tornadic storm blew through this area without unleashing its potential here.
A pending anniversary sharpens memories of where we were. Then an Oxford resident, I was in The Anniston Star office that night, following James Spann. When he showed the nasty radar signature nearly over Jacksonville, I ran outside and looked north, as far as I could see.
Lightning played a relentless strobe show across the sky. Gusting wind blunted thuds of distant thunder, or distant something, as eeriness pierced the air’s ripe energy.
Contrast to Thursday evening, and my cell phone vibrates and dings as my panicked, 12-year-old son grapples with a sudden promotion to man of the house. Storms had reached areas forecast in the marginal-risk zone, surprising this weather nerd and terrifying my son and 9-year-old daughter. With my wife out of town, my mother-in-law tried to calm them.
As I race home to Jacksonville from errands in Oxford, the Eastern Bypass crests and reveals ominous, low-hanging clouds to the west and north. Cars pull off on the shoulder.
The storm’s rotating flank had cleared Jacksonville by the time I got home in “The Avenues,” or so said J.P. Dice on the radio. My mother-in-law and kids emerged from the master bedroom closet as I entered the house. All was well.
Today, all of us who live and/or work regularly in Jacksonville breathe relieved. Not again. Not this time, thank goodness. Hopefully, not for generations.
It’s a good day for baseball.