As the deadliest tornado to hit Alabama in 80 years ripped through Tuscaloosa on April 27, Crimson Tide long-snapper Carson Tinker huddled with his girlfriend in a closet in his off-campus apartment, about 10 miles from Bryant-Denny Stadium. A 6'1", 220-pound redshirt junior, Tinker tried to hold down 22-year-old Ashley Harrison, but as the twister shredded the house, he was thrown 50 yards into a field, suffering a concussion and fractured wrist. Harrison wasn't as lucky: She was one of five Alabama students killed by the tornado—an F-5 level storm with winds of nearly 200 mph—that left 39 dead in Tuscaloosa and a total of 337 throughout the Southeast. And those numbers will rise; in Tuscaloosa alone, more than 400 people were still unaccounted for at week's end.
Even before the tornado was out of sight, scores of Alabama athletes and coaches were pulling the injured from the rubble. Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron and basketball coach Anthony Grant searched for survivors at the intersection of 15th Street and McFarland, the town's most devastated area. The twister narrowly missed the university—it came within a mile of Bryant-Denny Stadium—but after football coach Nick Saban surveyed the destruction, he said what everyone in this region of 180,000 was thinking, "Tuscaloosa will never be the same."
DARRELL WALKER/UTHM/ICON SMI (TINKER)
CAUGHT IN THE STORM In a tragic instant, Tinker (above) lost Harrison to the tornado.