10th anniversary of April 27, 2011 tornado: Pratt town library rises from its ashes
April 27, 2021
Today (April 27, 2021) marks the 10th anniversary of the day a massive tornado hit the Pratt City community of Birmingham, including the Pratt City Branch Library and surrounding neighborhoods. The tornado caused such massive damage that the library was forced to close. Fortunately, most of the Pratt City Library collection has been backed up and moved to temporary storage. Almost three years later, in February 2014, the Pratt City Library reopened with an all new design.
The new Pratt Town Library has a storm shelter installed, with concrete walls strong enough to withstand the winds of tornado force.
Reminding customers and staff of the importance of libraries and reading, the walls of the New Pratt City Library contain inspirational quotes from leaders such as President Barack Obama, former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy and educator / activist Mary McLeod Bethune.
A special quote that stands out is a by American author / historian Studs Terkel, “All you need in life is truth and beauty, and you can find both at the public library.”
This E-F4 tornado had winds in excess of 180 km / h and was one of 62 that struck large parts of Alabama ten years ago, killing 248 people and injuring more than 1,500 statewide . Across the country, the April 27, 2011 tornadoes struck six states and killed 348 people, including more than two-thirds of Alabama’s casualties. They are the most killed tornadoes in the United States since March 1925. The same tornado that hit the City of Pratt Library traveled more than 80 miles, hitting Greene, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties.
Al.com published an article on February 10, 2014 during the reopening ceremony of the City of Pratt Library. The headline ‘Like a Phoenix’, taken from a quote by former Birmingham City Councilor Marcus Lundy, representing the Pratt City neighborhood, describes how the reconstruction of the area (including the library) is rising from the ashes. like a phoenix ”.
Gwendolyn Amamoo, former chairman of the Birmingham Public Library Board of Trustees, addressed an entire crowd at the reopening ceremony, saying that although Pratt City Library has been destroyed and the community devastated by the tornado of April 27, 2011, “we are not here to dwell on that tragic April day. We are here to celebrate” its rebirth. The Pratt City Branch Library is “really a community center,” former Pratt City Library Branch Manager Deborah Blackmon said in an interview with NPR in April 2016, five years after the devastating tornado.
Now the tornado-devastated community has a whole new look, showcased by a beautiful new park outside of the City of Pratt Library. The city commissioned the same landscape architecture firm that created Railroad Park to create the park around the reconstructed Pratt City Library.
At the Pratt City reopening ceremony in February 2014, staff member Lenairria Creer, who has been employed there since 1995, recounted how she was personally affected by the April 2011 tornado. After the library was prematurely closed due to the approaching storm, Creer told stated that she had been to her house a few blocks away. This afternoon, the same tornado that hit the Pratt Public Library hit his home. She told attendees of the reopening ceremony that the destruction of the Pratt City Library was just as devastating to her as the loss of her home at one point.
“At first I thought I was going to be a little depressed coming back,” she said, missing the old library. “But being that everything is new and all of the old is gone, it’s a sweet memory.”
Vincent Solfronk, Branch Manager of the Pratt City Branch Library, placed an exhibit “Remembrance of April 27, 2011” which contains photographs and newspaper articles showing the damage to the library caused by the powerful storm. It has been popular with patrons who remember how the storm devastated the area.
About BPL The mission of the Birmingham Public Library is to provide the highest quality library service to our citizens for lifelong learning, cultural enrichment and enjoyment. This system – with 18 locations and serving the community for 135 years – is one of the largest library systems in the Southeast. For more information on Birmingham Public Library programs and services, follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BPL.
This press release was prepared by Birmingham Public Library. The opinions expressed here are those of the author.