Monday, May 09, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama

One of the largest single-system tornado outbreaks in United States history occurred from April 27 to 28, 2011, resulting in at least 155 confirmed tornadoes across 14 states and severe destruction during the outbreak. The death toll reached 337 across seven states, including at least 246 in Alabama.

The SockGuy factory is located in DeKalb County, Alabama, so we checked in with CJ Buttram to see how he and his 16 employees are faring.

“All of my life they’ve issued tornado warnings; this time it was a tornado emergency,” said CJ. “We were wondering what the difference was until it hit us, and then we knew!”

With tornadoes being a way of life in Alabama, CJ and his team were prepared for the storm, and everyone showed up to work on Wednesday morning as usual. “Usually we just monitor the weather and move to the center of the building if it gets bad,” he said. “But this time, after the first storm came through and they said there were going to be more … and that they were going to get worse … we shut down the factory and everyone went home.”

CJ and his business partner and wife Vickie sought shelter at their church, which has a large basement. “We went outside to see one of the tornadoes go by and couldn’t believe what we saw,” he said. “It was unreal … it was a monster!”

As soon as the storms passed, the community rallied to support victims. One of the factory employees lost her home during the storm. CJ’s sister, also an employee, made it through the storm, but during the power outages her cat knocked over a kerosene lamp and her home burned to the ground.

CJ says that of the 43 people killed within a 10 mile radius of the factory, he knew many. Countless more friends and family are struggling with losses of life, home, pets and belongings.

“We take care of each other here,” said CJ. “Someone told me that within 2 days of this storm we had done more – without federal aid yet, which started coming in this week – than was done 2 months after Hurricane Katrina. We all help each other, and nobody charges anyone for anything. We just all help out.”

The factory was without power through Sunday afternoon, and the entire team got back to work first thing Monday morning. “Our employees were amazing,” said CJ. “Everyone just got right back to work without hesitation.”

We created a special sock to raise funds to support recovery efforts in Alabama. 100% of proceeds from this sock will go directly to Alabama relief efforts.Check it out here: Sweet Home Alabama