A harrowing story from tornado-torn Alabama

Greg Retsinas is back in Alabama, where he held his 8-year-old daughter tighter than he ever had before.

Greg is a Press Democrat colleague, the paper's online and interactive editor. He previously lived and worked in Tuscaloosa and his daughter, Isabel, and former wife, Meredith, live in Tuscaloosa. Or they used to.

Wednesday afternoon, Greg was at the PD when he received a text message from Meredith that made his heart stop.

A monster of a tornado had hit Tuscaloosa and Meredith and Isabel shut themselves in a closet and listened as their house was ripped apart. In the first text, Greg's ex-wife and daughter were trapped in the wreckage.

He later learned they had escaped the remains of their home, which was partially destroyed, but many of the possessions were intact.

Greg arrived Thursday at his former in-laws' house in Birmingham and opened his arms to Isabel. "I gave her such a hug I thought she was going pass out," he said.

He discovered that as Isabel had headed for the closet she'd grabbed her first possession, a teddy bear she'd been given at birth and sleeps with every night.

As I spoke to Greg by phone, he watched Isabel play on the lawn of her grandparents' house. "She's a real resilient kid," he said, full of gratitude for a silver lining in Alabama.

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