Mississippi State baseball coach John Cohen is a Tuscaloosa native and had a close encounter with the deadly tornadoes of 1974, so he was especially worried Wednesday when a twister ripped through his hometown, where his sister and mother live.
Both are OK, but Cohen's sister, Nettie Blume, was in the path of destruction. Blume and her husband, Gary Blume, have a small law office (Blume & Blume) on University Avenue, and both were in it when the tornado hit yesterday afternoon. The building was leveled, but the Blumes were pulled from the rubble without major injuries, Cohen said.
"We're all considering ourselves fortunate," Cohen said. "They were within inches of something serious happening."
He said his sister opened the front door of the offices, saw the tornado, and only had time to dash into her husband's office before it hit. Cohen said their vehicles were destroyed. He believes no other people were in the building.
Because cell phone service was down, Cohen had trouble finding out if his sister and brother-in-law were OK, but he eventually learned they were via another brother-in-law, who had been in touch with other family members.
"We were pretty freaked out," Cohen said. "It's kind of funny, I called my mother and I got her, and she had no idea. I said, 'Nettie, their law office just got leveled.' She kind of was stunned. She didn't even know, and she lives literally two miles away."
His mother, Doris Cohen, lives in Capstone Village near the Alabama campus, and her area suffered no damage.
Cohen still has plenty of friends in the Tuscaloosa area, so it's been an emotionally taxing time for him all around.
"Folks I grew up with are still there. They keep talking about the storm in '74 – I was in that one as a kid. That one hit right next to our house and just destroyed a lot of our neighborhood. I don't know what it is. There have been some real tragic storms that have hit Tuscaloosa over the last 35, 40 years."