On a late summer Sunday evening, nearly 500 community members gathered on the campus of Forest Lake United Methodist Church (FLUM), where just four months earlier, the same neighborhood watched as a tornado devastated the area. The Forest Lake Block Party focused on bringing the community back together to mingle and to celebrate first responders from the April 27 tornado.
The Forest Lake Block Party emphasized messages of encouragement to FLUM
members, members of other congregations, its residents of the community and for the City of Tuscaloosa, especially the students who have recently returned to begin a new school year. One such message was displayed on Forest Lake Neighborhood Association t-shirts, sprinkled throughout the crowd. Emblazoned in white on a crimson background, the shirt simply read, “We’re Coming Back!”
“It was a beautiful cross-section of our community with a great spirit of togetherness… It was a great Pep Rally for our community!” said Rev. Chris Denson, senior pastor of FLUM.
Carson Tinker, starting longsnapper for the University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team, gave his testimony at the event. Tinker, also a neighbor of the Forest Lake community, survived the April 27 storm with significant injuries. Tinker attempted to hover over his girlfriend, Ashley Harrison, to protect her in his home, but winds threw him 100 yards away. Harrison died. Tinker shared his story in order to assist survivors with their day-to-day struggles.
Mayor Walt Maddox also spoke at the Block Party, encouraging residents to look onward toward recovery.
A time of remembrance was also held for lost loved ones, homes, businesses and jobs.
Free food for the Block Party was provided courtesy of Alagasco. Nick’s Kids, a local charity founded and supported by Alabama Crimson Tide football head coach Nick Saban, hosted special activities for children. Music was provided by local area musicians: The Stacked Deck Barbershop Quartet, Westlawn Middle School Chorus, University Place Middle School Chorus and FLUM’s Connections Praise Band and Chasing Heart. University of Alabama Crimson Tide cheerleaders also made an appearance, bringing along the school mascot and fan favorite, Big Al.
“Chris Denson and his team at Forest Lake created a wonderful event. Chris is helping this congregation heal and this congregation is helping their community move forward,” said Dr. Bill Brunson, superintendent of the Southwest District.