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Signs of Hope in Alabama's Tornado Wreckage

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Today we revisit the devastation left by a massive system of tornadoes and storms that struck Alabama almost three weeks ago, on April 27th, 2011, claiming nearly 250 lives in the state alone. Photographer Julie Dermansky recently traveled to some of the hardest-hit regions, looking for stories about what's next for them and finding signs of abiding faith and patriotism. Dermansky went to some of the areas that were hit by F-4 and F-5 tornadoes, including Tuscaloosa and the Birmingham suburbs: "Crews from around the country are out in force, clearing debris and fixing power lines in deathly still neighborhoods," she writes. "American flags and religious messages punctuate apocalyptic landscapes." [39 photos]

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Georg Hamilton, 87, of Pleasant Grove, Alabama, considers himself the most blessed man in the world because he left his house five minutes before it was obliterated by one of the tornadoes that struck on April 27th, 2011. Photo taken on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermanksy)
Georg Hamilton, 87, of Pleasant Grove, Alabama, considers himself the most blessed man in the world because he left his house five minutes before it was obliterated by one of the tornadoes that struck on April 27th, 2011. Photo taken on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermanksy)
A religious message on a sign placed in front of a home destroyed in a tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A family photo leans against bricks in the remains of a home destroyed in a tornado in Smithfield, Alabama. Photo taken on May 11, 2011 (© Julie Dermansky) #
A severely tornado-damaged neighborhood of Tuscaloosa, seen on May 10, 2011 (© Julie Dermansky) #
A waring sign is painted on a blue tarp covering the garage of a tornado-damaged home. in Tuscaloosa on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
An American Flag rests on porch steps in front of the remains of a home in Smithfield, Alabama, on May 11, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A tornado-destroyed home in Holt, Alabama, with "In God We Trust" painted on it, seen on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A message from the bible painted on the remains of a totaled home in the hardest hit area of Tuscaloosa, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Cordova's historic downtown is a shell of its former self and may have to be torn down after two tornadoes recently ripped through the Alabama town. Photo taken on May 11, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
On May 11, 2011, a plastic religious sculpture stands in the ruins after a tornado ripped through Smithfield. a suburb of Birmingham on April 27th, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A house with a religious message painted on it after being destroyed by a tornado in Alabama in the Lakeview neighborhood of Tuscaloosa. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A destroyed car lies in the rubble left in a tornado's path in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A sign at a disaster relief station offers supplies after the tornadoes ripped through Sipsey, Alabama, on May 11, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A porcelain angel stands in the remains of a home totaled by a tornado in Pleasant Grove, a suburb of Birmingham, Alabama, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Messages are left, painted on a damaged home in a tornado-ravaged area in Tuscaloosa, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Smithfield, a suburb of Birmingham, remains in a state of ruin over two weeks after it was hit by an F-4 (possibly an F-5) tornado, one of an estimated 300 that struck Alabama and the neighboring states on April 27th , 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
In this May 11, 2011 photo, a destroyed church in Pratt City, Alabama, is seen, with a blue tarp covering the gaping hole left in its facade by a tornado two weeks earlier. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A house stands among the rubble left in the wake of a massive tornado in Pleasant Grove, Alabama, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Family photos in a frame are stuck in the splintered side of a utility pole in Holt, Alabama, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
An aid center set up by a church group after the Alabama tornado disaster on the road leading to Pleasant Grove, Alabama, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A destroyed car rests in the rubble left in a tornado's path with a reference to a Bible verse ("For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.") on a sign placed next to it in Tuscaloosa, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A home with a warning sign painted on a boarded up window, in Tuscaloosa Alabama, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A cross stands in the middle of rubble left in a tornado's wake in Tuscaloosa, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A piano lies on its side in a valley destroyed by tornadoes in Smithfield, Alabama, on May 11, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Messages asking for help are left on what remains of a home in Sipsey, Alabama, on May 11, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A church group offers disaster aid after tornadoes ripped through Tuscaloosa, seen on May 12, 2011 (© Julie Dermansky) #
Home totaled by a tornado in Alabama marked with messages, including the name of an insurance company, and "Roll Tide", the rally cry of the University of Alabama, in Pleasant Grove, a suburb of Birmingham Alabama, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
An American flag and a "Go 'Bama" sign remain in front of a home totaled by a tornado in Pleasant Grove, Alabama, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A house stripped of its outer walls in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, after tornadoes destroyed miles of property. Photo taken on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
"Help", painted on a brick building left standing in a housing project after tornadoes ripped through Tuscaloosa. Alabama, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
James Bond stands in front of his destroyed house 16 days after a tornado struck, in Pleasant Grove, Alabama. Bond, his wife and one of their two dogs survived, an they plan to rebuild. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Devastation in a hard-hit area in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, near the University on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Car thrown by a tornado with an American flag and a blessing painted on the underside, in Pleasant Grove, on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Over a mile of homes in Pleasant Grove, Alabama, were reduced to rubble by a tornado on April 27th, 2011. This is the scene on May 12, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
Roots of a tree exposed near a tornado-damaged house in Holt, Alabama, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A message is painted on a home totaled by a tornado in Pleasant Grove, Alabama, on May 12, 2011 (© Julie Dermansky) #
Only a shell remains standing where a Baptist church was hit by a tornado in Smithfield, Alabama, on May 11, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
A sign is placed in front of a home destroyed in a tornado in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #
An American Flag in the storm wreckage in front of a home in Smithfield, Alabama, on May 10, 2011. (© Julie Dermansky) #

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