God in the rubble: Look for strong faith angle in aftermath of killer Alabama tornado

When a disaster strikes a Bible Belt location, it’s no surprise when faith reveals itself in the aftermath.

We saw it after major hurricanes last fall.

Already, we’re seeing it again in the spot-news coverage of the tornado that devastated a rural Alabama community on Sunday.

The Associated Press’ main report on the tornado that killed at least 23 people in Beauregard, Ala., contains three strong references to religion.

The first:

“I’m still thanking God I’m among the living,” said John Jones, who has lived most of his life in Beauregard, an unincorporated community of roughly 10,000 people about 60 miles east of Montgomery near the Georgia state line.

The second:

Don Willis, who lives near the Lee County community of Smiths Station with his wife, four daughters and four dogs, said the twister came within about a mile of their home as the children and pets took cover in the closet and bathroom.

He said he had been through numerous tornadoes over the years and had never heard one as loud.

“You could feel the energy that it was sucking into that system. It was the most crazy sound,” Willis said. “It sounded like a living, breathing beast.”

“All we could do is just hold on for life and pray,” said Jonathan Clardy, who huddled with his family inside their Beauregard trailer as the tornado ripped the roof off. “It’s a blessing from God that me and my young’ns are alive.”

The third:

Julie Morrison and her daughter-in-law picked through the ruins of Morrison’s home in Beauregard, looking for keys and a wallet. They managed to salvage her husband’s motorcycle boots and a Bible.

A Bible? Yep, there’s a faith angle there.

I won’t fault the AP for failing to elaborate on the meaning of finding that particular item among the rubble. It’s pretty self-explanatory, right?

In the coming days, as AP and other news organizations delve deeper into stories of the victims as well as the recovery effort, faith should remain a prominent part of the story. That’s just the way it is in a place like Alabama — especially for reporters who pay attention.

As always, expect faith-based disaster relief agencies to play a key role — and they, too, will be an important part of the story.

Finally, we’re still several days away from Sunday services, but those definitely will be emotional experiences lending themselves to media coverage.

What other coverage are you seeing of the Alabama tornado? Any strong religion angles or holy ghosts that you’d like to share? By all means, please copy and paste links in the comments section or tweet us at @GetReligion.

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