ENTERPRIDE: High School football helps heal tornado-torn community

Casey StricklandCorrespondent ISeptember 19, 2007

The events of March 1, 2007 changed my life.

At around 1 p.m. local time, my hometown of Enterprise, Alabama, was hit by a tornado.

Being from Alabama, I was accustomed to thunderstorms, tornadoes, and even hurricanes.

I was not at all prepared for what happened that day, or for what would happen several  months later, when football season rolled around.

I was there when the freakishly huge twister smashed into downtown Enterprise.

It lasted only a short time, but upon ucovering my head and walking outside of the doctor's office I was huddled in, I realized the magnitude of the situation.

The tornado had ripped through Main Street and continued its way toward the heart of the community: the high school.

Enterprise High School had been a mainstay in the community for more than half a century.

Standing at 500 East Watts Street, it was indeed the heart of a town that has been progressing rapidly over the past few years.

It was the place where countless young people made memories that would last a lifetime.

This icon of the community took a direct hit from the monsterous storm, and part of the building collapsed, killing eight students and injuring many others.

While the aftermath of the storm was filled with sadness over the nine friends we lost and the damage that occured, it also produced a spirit of kindness, generocity, and pride unlike any I have ever seen. Volunteers poured in from all over the country donating time, money, supplies, and, most importantly, prayers to our town.

The football stadium, affectionately known as "The Hole," where the Wildcats and two junior high teams play their games, was also damaged in the storm.

Since Bates Memorial Stadium also played host to the EHS commencement ceremony, it was important to the Seniors of 2007 to continue the longstanding tradition of graduation on the field.

So, thanks to the efforts of volunteers and Enterprise citizens alike, the stadium was  restored, (minus the reserve seating and the stand of pine trees that hid the beatiful venue from the street, but complete with a new scoreboard and press box) and, on May 31, 2007, the graduating class walked across the field and recieved their diplomas in a ceremony filled with emotion and memories.

Fast foward to August, and the town is alive with the excitement of the new football season.

This season would be different than any other in Enterprise's long history, and everyone knew it.

The season would be an emotional time for everyone, but especially for the EHS cheerleading squad, who lost two of their own in the storm.

As gametime approached on August 31, most of the town was squeezed into the newly-renovated stadium awaiting the start of a football season dedicated to remembering and moving on.

For the students, who attend classes in portable rooms at a nearby community college, football brought a sense of semi-normalcy.

When the 'Cats crashed through their banner to open the season, the town erupted.

It was the same sound that preceeds every football game, there was something special about it. 

It was the cry of a people who had overcome the trials that came, and moved foward.

There are countless things in life more important than football, but the football season has served as a stepping stone on the road to recovery. 

 The buiding no longer stands, but the EHS spirit lives on in the hearts of teachers, students, administrators, and everyone who is proud to call themselves a Wildcat.

This year has taught me a lot.

Life is short, live each day like it's your last,(no matter how old you are) because you never know when it will be.

Most importantly, it has left me with a renewed sense of something I had all along.

Something known around here simply as Enterpride.