Don't wait on a storm to show what you can be

I wasn’t in Tuscaloosa on April 27, 2011. My brother was, somewhere in one of the new dorms (Riverside West, I think?), so I remember the anxiety of watching what happened that day from far away. I remember seeing the devastation wrought on a town that I had known well. I remember how ready everyone I knew in Tuscaloosa was to get out. I remember the sheer scale of destruction–how it reminded me of Hurricane Katrina and all those disaster stories that you get used to living on the Gulf Coast, but hope you never have to be a part of.

But more than that, I remember the selflessness that followed all over the state. I remember hearing the stories of students, alumni, athletes, strangers, Alabama fans, even Auburn fans, turning to help their neighbors however, whenever they could. At my school, we wore the ribbons, we helped in the water and food drives, we did what we could. Everyone did.

When the time came for me to choose a college, I never even toured any other University. Sometimes I regret that. I was a National Merit Scholar, my grades were good, I was a scholarship-caliber musician at the time. I could have gone most places, but I chose this University: the one I had grown up with, the only one I thought I really knew–the only one that would pay me to go there (thanks Robert Witt!). I arrived in August 2012, just over one year into the recovery. In the time since, I’ve seen this community thrive, reaching heights it never had pre-storm. I’ve watched Alabamians never forget the depths of that day, and I’ve watched them turn, over and over again, to help their neighbors.

I’ve also learned a lot about what this University really is. I’ve learned that its expansion has come from massive amounts of debt spending, and that state funding and steady tuition hikes are the plan to keep it afloat. I’ve learned that many in this administration shudder at the idea of transparency, or truth, and that many students follow that lead. I’ve seen a University community that refuses to address its many problems, and administration that after decades, still refuses to address the impact The Machine has on campus life. I’ve learned that the surest way to scare the living daylights out of someone is to tell the world exactly what they are. I’ve seen the overwhelming selfishness associated with a University as much about bottom line as education and inclusivity.

In my time as editor of The Crimson White, we’ve worked, every day, to tell the stories in this community, and to tell the truth. We’ve excelled, and sometimes we’ve failed, but I’m proud of the work we’ve done here. I’m proud of the stories we’ve told about what really happens to rape victims at this University. I’m proud of our editors and sources who were willing to share stories about the struggles they face every day with their mental health. I’m proud of our work to expose The Machine, and I’m even proud of our work to tell the story of Alabama football’s 16th national championship. I hope these stories have been meaningful to y’all. I know these stories are worth telling, and I’m begging y’all, support journalism, here and wherever you go. Pay attention. Take pride in being informed. To quote a former CW production editor, give just a single damn.

I want to say thank you to everyone who helped me through my four years at this University. Thank you to Eric Yates, Meredith Cummings, Mark Mayfield, Lars Anderson, Tom Lopez, and all the members of the great faculty at this University. Thank you to the tireless professional staff at the Office of Student Media. Thank you to my incredible friends and teammates at the CW, who amaze me every day with their work ethic and brilliance. Thank you to Roots Woodruff, Sarah Patterson, Dana Duckworth, Aaron Jordan and even Nick Saban, who treated me like a true professional journalist for the first time, and to Tommy Deas, who taught me what that really means.

The aftermath of that storm was maybe the first time I was really, truly proud to be an Alabamian. I know what we’re capable of as a state, as a town, and as a University community: great, endless compassion and love. This state has never stood as tall as it did after that storm, and I hope that we can tap into that over and over again, without needing a horrific disaster to remind us. Care for each other. Listen to each other. Make us proud again.

T-Town Never Down.

Sean Landry was the Editor-in-Chief of The Crimson White for 2015-16. 

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