2 weeks ago

‘God was with all these people, and us’: Amid tornado destruction, cross stands tall

One Shelby County family has found their faith in God strengthened after a tornado tore through their Eagle Point neighborhood on Thursday, severely damaging their home and several others.

CNN reported that Dena Cook and her husband “rode out the tornado in a closet in their two-story home” and “could see the storm clouds above them when the roof gave way.” The tornado has been preliminarily rated as at least an EF-3.

It was, perhaps, a miracle that no one died in Eagle Point on Thursday, as Cook’s story underscores.

Last year, her husband reportedly constructed a wooden cross in their backyard. Cook recently draped this wooden cross with a purple cloth for Lent.

As she emerged from her battered home on Thursday, there was the cross — still resolutely standing — and the purple cloth — still hugging the cross.

“It’s just God,” Cook told CNN on Friday. “It’s still there and my cross is still there, because God was with all these people, and us.”

For Easter next Sunday, Cook plans to replace the purple cloth with a white one.

“This is what God is all about,” Cook reportedly said while pointing to the cross. “Lent is a sorrowful time but then on that Easter Sunday, it will be beautiful all again.”

Dena Cook (Derek Van Dam/Twitter)

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Smiths Station celebrates two decades through new city clock

This June, Smiths Station will mark 20 years of incorporation, and the city is planning to celebrate the past, present and future in the most momentous way. City officials led by Mayor F.L. “Bubba” Copeland unveiled a city clock that will honor history while looking to the future.

Nestled between Phenix City and Columbus, Georgia, Smiths Station is one of the three fastest-growing cities in Alabama, according to state officials. Incorporated in 2001, the Smiths Station community was founded in the early 1700s. It had an estimated population of 5,345 people in 2020.

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Copeland, the second mayor in city history, offered appreciation to the first administration in setting standards for Smiths Station’s successful 20-year history as a city.

“Thanks to the previous administration, former Mayor LaFaye Dellinger and the City Council that laid the groundwork, it was easy for us to build on that foundation, build the roof and with each passing administration, the building will get fancier and fancier,” he said.

Copeland went on to say, “the clock represents time set upon us and what we do in life.”

He said the city and community deserve the landmark and all that it signifies.

Melissa Gauntt, the daughter of Dellinger, expressed her gratitude to the foundation. She said of her mother’s work: “I know the time and commitment that she gave to the city in her 16 years as the mayor and even before becoming mayor in leading the efforts to incorporate the city. “It is truly befitting that this beautiful clock be representative of these deeds and is a striking addition to the front of City Hall.”

The clock is in downtown Smiths Station at 2336 Lee County Road 430. For more information about the city of Smiths Station, visit www.smithsstational.gov.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

4 hours ago

Hyundai lending cutting-edge hydrogen fuel cell SUV to Alabama State University

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) will lend one of the world’s first hydrogen fuel cell sport utility vehicles, the Hyundai NEXO, to Alabama State University for an extended evaluation period.

Robert Burns, Hyundai’s vice president of Human Resources and Administration, made the announcement at a news conference April 6 joined by ASU President Quinton Ross in front of the ASU Lockhart Gym.

“This is truly a great time to be a Hornet as we celebrate the continuing partnership between Hyundai and Alabama State University,” Ross said. “Several weeks ago, Hyundai and ASU came together as the university hosted a COVID-19 vaccination clinic for the employees of Hyundai, and today we witness ASU partnering with Hyundai again as it loans us its high-technology vehicle, the NEXO, which will allow us to expose our STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) students to this first-of-a-kind vehicle.”

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The Hyundai NEXO is the first hydrogen fuel cell SUV available for commercial sale in the world. It uses hydrogen to produce electricity for the vehicle’s electric power train and its only emission is water vapor. The Hyundai NEXO is available for sale only in California. Although the NEXO is not assembled at the Montgomery plant, HMMA has two Hyundai NEXOs that are part of a ride and drive program.

“The groundbreaking spirit behind the NEXO mirrors our own mission to be an innovative manufacturer of current and future mobility solutions,” Burns said. “The partnership between ASU and Hyundai began a few weeks ago with the COVID-19 vaccine clinic. The system ASU had in place was smooth, efficient and it worked well. Today, we extend that partnership with the evaluation of the Hyundai NEXO by the university. We are excited again to be working with Alabama State University.”

ASU hosted the first of two COVID-19 vaccination clinics for Hyundai employees March 26-27. ASU Health Center personnel will administer the vaccine’s second doses to them April 16-17.

“Our partnership between ASU and Hyundai has been smooth and wonderful,” said Dr. Joyce Loyd-Davis, senior director of ASU’s Health Services. “Today’s event and our April COVID-19 vaccine’s second-round injections to Hyundai’s employees is a great example of ASU and Hyundai’s relationship jelling and extending into the future.”

Montgomery County District Judge Tiffany McCord, an ASU trustee, thanked Hyundai for being a team partner with ASU. “This is yet another positive example of President Ross putting his vision of ‘CommUniversity’ into action, which is good for both Hyundai and ASU,” McCord said.

She was joined at the news conference podium by fellow trustee Delbert Madison. “Thanks to the Hyundai family, which is a major contributor to our community,” he said. “When Hyundai shows up, it shows out.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

5 hours ago

Auburn University’s Department of Animal Sciences partners with Winpak to extend shelf life of food

Auburn University’s College of Agriculture and its Department of Animal Sciences are teaming up with global packaging manufacturer and distributor Winpak to focus on research to extend the shelf life of meat and food products.

The food product packaging research began in October 2020.

“We are grateful and excited for the unique learning opportunities that will come from utilizing a collaborative partnership,” said associate professor Jason Sawyer. “Through this partnership, Winpak and Auburn University will aid their shelf life research through the placement of a VarioVac Rollstock Packaging Machine provided by Winpak.”

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Collaborating with Winpak and working with industry leaders will not only enhance and contribute to diverse research experiences within the graduate program, but will provide undergraduate students with real-world meat and food packaging involvement, Sawyer said.

“We anticipate this project will work as the foundation to a significant relationship with Winpak, as Auburn University works in tandem with company experts to produce cutting-edge protein packaging and shelf-life solutions,” he said.

The Auburn University meat science research team goal is to provide more product value and reduce markdowns and waste at the retail counter.

Research evaluating alternative packaging of protein products can provide greater knowledge about creating safer products for consumers as a result of less microbial growth.

“Winpak is excited to partner with Auburn University on this unique opportunity,” said Tom Bonner, protein market director at Winpak and an Auburn alumnus. “Developing packaging concepts is an area where Winpak feels Auburn’s Lambert-Powell Meat Laboratory can add valuable knowledge and insight.”

Leaders in the protein industry are looking for innovative and sustainable solutions to the ever-changing demand for new packaging concepts, Bonner said.

“As Winpak continues to develop sustainable packages for the protein market, we hope this partnership will attract these industry leaders to the Lambert-Powell Meat Laboratory to conduct packaging trials and ideation sessions,” he said.

The packaging equipment at Auburn will allow for student interactions with industry leaders. The goal will be to expose students early in their pursuit of career options and facilitate better-informed students entering the workforce. The protein industry will need strong, innovative leaders to develop creative ideas to keep up with the demand for meat proteins.

“Supporting our customers and upcoming food manufacturing leaders is something we take very seriously at Winpak,” Bonner said. “We anticipate that our new collaborative relationship with Auburn University will be the spark to many unique and interesting ideas for the protein industry.”

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Nearly $100 million targeted for wildlife injured by 2010 oil spill in Gulf of Mexico

The Deepwater Horizon Regionwide Trustee Implementation Group, which includes trustee representatives from four federal agencies and the five Gulf Coast states, is seeking public input on the first post-settlement draft restoration plan.

The regional approach exemplifies collaboration and coordination among the trustees by restoring living coastal and marine resources that migrate and live in wide geographic ranges, as well as linking projects across jurisdictions.

The plan proposes $99.6 million for 11 restoration projects across all five states bordering the Gulf of Mexico, and specific locations in Mexico and on the Atlantic coast of Florida. Comments will be accepted through May 6. The trustees are hosting two public webinars with open houses for questions and answers on April 15.

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The draft restoration plan evaluates projects that would help restore living coastal and marine resources injured by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill through a portfolio of 11 projects:

  • Four projects ($18.6 million) to help restore sea turtles.
  • Three projects ($7.2 million) to help restore marine mammals.
  • One project ($35.8 million) to help restore and increase the resilience of oyster reefs.
  • Two projects ($31 million) to help restore birds.
  • One project ($7 million) to help restore both sea turtles and birds.

The public is encouraged to review and comment on the draft plan through May 6 by submitting comments online, by mail or during the virtual public meetings.

Information on how to submit your comments are at the latest Regionwide Restoration Area update.

During the April 15 virtual meetings, trustees will present the draft plan and take public comments. Register and learn more about the webinars and interactive open houses.

The draft plan and more information about projects, as well as fact sheets, are posted on the Gulf Spill Restoration website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Alabama’s Holocaust Day of Remembrance observance to be April 11

American prisoner of war Roddie Edmonds stood in front of more than 1,200 fellow POWs, the commandant of a German Stalag holding a Luger to Edmonds’ head.

The day before, the commandant had demanded that all Jewish POWs among the 1,200-plus noncommissioned officers captured during World War II’s Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 present themselves outside their barracks the next morning. Edmonds, a master sergeant from Knoxville, Tennessee, was the group’s ranking officer. He ordered all the American POWs to stand in formation, like they did every morning.

The commandant was furious. “You can’t all be Jews!” he said. Edmonds replied, “We are all Jews here.”

That’s when the German drew his pistol and threatened to kill Edmonds. “You will order the Jews to step forward, or I will shoot you right now.”

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Edmonds told the commandant he would have to shoot all the prisoners and that after the war, which was nearing its end with Germany losing, he would be prosecuted for war crimes. The commandant about-faced and walked away. Among the POWs were 200 Jewish GIs. Edmonds’ remarkable bravery while staring down death saved their lives.

Edmonds’ son, Chris, senior pastor of Piney Grove Baptist Church in Maryville, Tennessee, will be the featured speaker Sunday, April 11, at 2 p.m. at Alabama’s Holocaust Day of Remembrance. The annual observance of Yom HaShoah honors the memory of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, and Alabama’s survivors and their families. The event will be livestreamed. Click here to register.

Chris Edmonds recently received the Righteous Among the Nations award from Israel and Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, on behalf of his father, who died in 1985. This story’s account of Roddie Edmonds’ heroism came from the classroom version of the award-winning documentary “Footsteps of My Father,” made by the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous in 2018.

Alabama’s Holocaust event is organized by the Alabama Holocaust Commission, the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center and the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Birmingham Jewish Federation. The observance will include a rededication of the Anne Frank Tree in Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham.

In 2010, a group of Birmingham organizations planted a horse chestnut tree in the park to memorialize Frank, the young Jewish Holocaust victim who kept a diary of her experiences and could look out at a large horse chestnut tree in the garden as she and her family hid from the Nazis. The tree planted in Birmingham did not survive the Alabama climate. On April 11, the groups will rededicate an American beech that has replaced the horse chestnut tree.

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey will make a proclamation at the event and Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the United States, will speak. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin is part of the program, which includes music by violinist Niv Ashkenazi as part of the Violins of Hope, an artistic project of the restored instruments played by Jewish musicians in Holocaust camps. A candle-lighting ceremony will recognize Holocaust survivors and their families.

One of those survivors is Birmingham’s Dr. Robert May, who celebrated his 95th birthday in February. The retired OB-GYN counts himself extremely fortunate that he and his immediate family survived the Holocaust, although an aunt and uncle who helped them perished in Auschwitz.

“I have lived a long life. I’m 95 years old. It has been a fortuitous life. I have survived a disaster that happened to some of my family,” he said.

May was born in 1926 in Camberg, Germany, a small town about 50 miles from Frankfurt. He remembers playing soccer and marbles with other children in the park and living an “essentially normal” life – until Adolf Hitler rose to power in 1933 when May was 7.

“I was totally isolated after Hitler came to power,” he said. “Everyone knew everyone else, and knew we were Jewish. I was an outcast. By age 9, it became impossible for a kid to have a normal life because of isolation more than any physical harm.”

May remembers the indoctrination of his classmates into the Hitler Youth and being jealous of the fancy uniforms they wore.

“One of the episodes I remember vividly, I was chased by a couple of Nazi-uniformed kids in my class. They called me a dirty Jew. I escaped by way of a little entrance into our house in the back,” he said. “I told my father about it and that I called them a dirty Nazi back. My father said, ‘Don’t do that. There’s no need to aggravate them. Just run home and get away from them but don’t call them names.’

“That was the basic attitude of the Jews at the time,” May said. “’This will pass, we’ve been through worse.’ The attitude was, people will come to their senses.”

But they didn’t.

As things got worse for May, his Aunt Emma moved with him to Frankfurt in 1936, leaving behind his parents in Camberg. They lived in an apartment owned by his wealthy Uncle Siegmund, who had escaped Germany and lived in Holland. May’s uncle paid for him to attend the Philanthropin, a Jewish school that gave him an “extraordinary” education, until Kristallnacht in November 1938.

During Kristallnacht, or “Night of Broken Glass,” German mobs of paramilitary forces and civilians attacked and damaged or destroyed thousands of businesses and synagogues, killing at least 91 Jews, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Many others died after being arrested. Some 30,000 Jewish males from 16 to 60 were sent to concentration camps.

A neighbor had warned May and his Aunt Emma to leave their apartment, which rioters ransacked. The school and synagogue he attended were torched. Soon after, May, who was 12, traveled alone to Brighton, England, under the Kindertransport program. The rescue effort by the British government fed, educated and housed thousands of refugee children, most of them Jewish. Uncle Siegmund paid for May to attend a Jewish boarding school.

May’s parents, with only two suitcases, escaped to London two days before the war started in summer 1939, awaiting a visa to travel to the United States. May, his parents and his two older brothers, who had left Germany years earlier, ended up in New Orleans in 1940, where relatives lived. Meanwhile, Germany conquered much of Europe, including Holland, where May’s Aunt Emma had joined Uncle Siegmund.

“In 1940, when Hitler invaded Belgium and Holland and defeated France, they were overrun by the Germans in Amsterdam, deported in 1942 or 1943 and were killed in Auschwitz,” May said.

Fast-forward through May’s life to now: medical school in New Orleans, two years in the Air Force, marriage, moving to Birmingham in 1953 to start a medical practice, three children, eight grandchildren and five great-grandchildren over the course of almost a half-century as a doctor and finally, retirement. His life, he said, could have happened “only in America.”

“I’m married to a young lady that I’ve been married to 67 or 68 years. We’re still living in the same house we’ve lived in for 55 years. I have no complaints,” May said.

He paused.

“I do remember my aunt and uncle and what happened to them. Without them, I would not be here.”

Holocaust education

One of May’s children is Ann Mollengarden, education director of the Birmingham Holocaust Education Center. Stories like her father’s help people understand the impact the Holocaust had at a personal level.

“The difficulty with this subject is the magnitude,” she said. “Because of the magnitude, it often becomes something that is unrelatable. So it needs to be drawn down to the individuals and to their experiences, which are really diverse.

“Instead of making it about 6 million (deaths), it’s putting a face to the events,” Mollengarden said.

With hate speech and the number of hate crimes growing and Holocaust deniers spewing their lies on the internet and social media, educating people about the Holocaust remains a critical mission of BHEC, with the goal of creating a “more just, humane and tolerant future.”

“This was a time when humanity really went awry, and it is a representative time for all groups of people as to what can go wrong when we don’t follow the norms of humanity,” Mollengarden said. “We should be studying about this and learning about this because it shows how we can go wrong, how democracy can fail, how human beings can fail, and what we are capable of doing.”

Zoe Weil, BHEC’s director of programs and outreach, notes that hate speech can lead to hate crimes and to something far worse, as events in Germany under the Third Reich proved.

“It didn’t start with the camps. It was an incremental, slow process,” she said. “That’s one of the reasons why a large population accepted it, or didn’t do as much as they should have because of those incremental laws of, oh, Jews can’t go to the park anymore. Jews can’t stay out past 7 anymore. No more Jewish businesses. Jews have to wear stars. Jews have to live in one area.”

Each of those steps, one after another, led to violence, to widespread killings and, ultimately, to state-sponsored, mass murder in concentration camps – not just 6 million Jews, but millions more people in other, targeted groups.

“That’s part of Holocaust education, learning the dangers of letting those ideas and thoughts and actions continue,” Weil said.

Not every Holocaust survivor endured the horrors of a concentration camp. Some fled, others went into hiding during the war.

“We define a survivor as anyone whose lives came under the Third Reich,” Mollengarden said.

BHEC continues working to document the stories of survivors who live or have lived in Alabama. With a founding board of directors that included Holocaust survivors, that’s one of the reasons for BHEC’s existence. “It was their hope that really spurred all of this because they want their stories to be told, and they wanted to assure that their stories would continue to be told,” Mollengarden said.

BHEC’s survivors’ archive includes more than 170 names, and Mollengarden invited the public to let BHEC know of survivors it has not documented or to provide additional information about the survivors listed. As the number of living survivors dwindles, the BHEC wants to do all it can to preserve and tell their stories – through the archive, through children of survivors telling their family’s stories, through others telling stories of survivors who have died.

“That is our goal, to continue to tell these stories because they won’t be around forever,” Mollengarden said. “These stories are so important.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)