Two years ago Birmingham was still reeling from the aftermath of a snowfall that would come to be known as “Snowmageddon.” The weather forecast had predicted a light dusting of snow for the Birmingham metro area, with some heavier accumulation to the south of Jefferson County.
The forecast was wrong. Very wrong, much to the dismay of travelers and commuters who were caught in what would be considered a light snowfall in some cities, but in the Deep South our relationship with snow is . . . complicated. In The Night That Changed Our Lives, Kelly Garner shares how his experience with the storm could have ended in disaster for him and his family. Garner, who is diabetic, had been fasting in preparation for a hand surgery and left his home on foot to assist motorists stranded in the storm, figuring that people needed help and he was close to his house so there shouldn’t be a problem. But fasting for the surgery and the effort of pushing automobiles combined to bring on a hypoglycemic episode in which he lost consciousness:
Some have speculated that I simply stumbled and plummeted forty feet off an embankment, hitting my head on the way down the ravine and landing in a dried up creek bed . . . my back happened to find the biggest, flattest boulder in the entire, massive canyon, shattering the vertebrae that made direct contact. With shattered vertebrae, I was nearly paralyzed . . . In this dark, snow-covered ravine, I lay unconscious for more than twelve hours in reportedly eight-degree temperatures all night. It should have been my last.Once his family realized that Garner was missing, they spread the word on “every possible social media site known to mankind” and a search party located Garner, but locating him was only the beginning of the rescue. He was in pain, suffering from hypothermia, and because of the hypoglycemic episode he had no memory of what had happened the night before. And he still had a long road ahead of him: surgery, rehab, physical therapy, all of which could only partially correct the effects of his injuries. However, the spirit of Garner’s memoir of that night and what followed is one of thankfulness and awareness of blessings:
When I go on my many runs and walks, the route that I take puts me in the exact location of my collapse. I have found myself using this site as a prayer altar. It is a place to reflect on all that has happened . . . it makes me appreciate every little thing I have even more.After reading The Night That Changed Our Lives, I thought: if I was grumpy about how it took me two and a half hours to drive home that day, I take it all back! This was an inspiring memoir and a reminder that there are heroes among us.
What are your memories of Snowmageddon?
More on Kelly Garner and The Night That Changed Our Lives
“Dusting of chaos: The day snow stunned and paralyzed Birmingham”
“The storm that stuck around: The makings of Alabama's 'Snowpocalypse 2014'”
“Alabama’s Snowmageddon 2014 through the eyes of those who are living it”
Severe Weather Preparedness
Mary Anne Ellis
Southern History Department