Stories from the Storm: Paramedic Brett Ashworth

After the tornado passed, Brett Ashworth's neighborhood resembled a war zone. Not prepared for this kind of disaster, he was overwhelmed by the support he received.


My name is Brett Ashworth. I work for the city of Homewood Fire Department. Firefighter and paramedic. My wife, Lauren, and I resided in Coleman, Alabama. I had gotten to work that morning about 6 o'clock. We were kind of aware that storms were coming. We knew that we had a possibility of it getting bad but we weren't sure where. I walked into the station and there's 10 or 12 firemen sitting around and it was silent. And that's unheard of at a fire station. Anything like that, you know something's bad. Something's going on that, and if you're the last one to come in and everybody's staring at you, you know it's probably affecting you. I said where's it at? They said it's at the courthouse. And they asked me how far my house was from the courthouse and I said about a block and a half, two blocks. Northeast of the courthouse. And so they said you need to go. I finally got a call from Lauren's sister, who lives out of state. She actually lives in Virginia. I got a call from her, which I thought was strange cuz we don't talk very frequently. I answered it. And very calmly, she stated that, Brett, your house is gone. You need to get home, now. I got to nearly the Hansfill area, which is probably about ten or 12 miles from our exit. Maybe a little further. And repeatedly calling Lauren and finally got her on the phone. She was hysterical. She's telling me that she's still in the house the house is gone. Lauren's badly exaggerated when she is excited. So I figure well maybe we got some shingles off the house or something like that, but she's, she's just upset. We're gonna be fine, it's not a big deal. When you roll into the middle of downtown Coleman and it looks like a war zone. There's National Guard walking the street with rifles. The fire department has got a a command center set up. If you need something that big, it's got to be bad. Normally you drive through Coleman, there's a lot of tree cover. A lot of old growth trees, historical homes, large homes. But it was just sky, everywhere you could see. And Lauren had told me when I talked to her that she was at the neighbor's house. Well, that was the only one still standing, so I figured it was that one. There was a guy in the window, I waved to him. He came down, opened the door, and Lauren come out. So I was relieved at that point. When she was fine, it was okay. She's fine. I know she's hysterical, but there's other things that need to be done. You know, we've gotta start moving forward pretty quick. As much as you want to plan, as much as you want to have something set in stone, you can't. You just can't prepare. You can't have everything like it's supposed to be. There's not a safe place for anything. We could've thought that a certain closet was a safe place and it was gone. It, it really sets in, you know, you kind of, it switches your mind set. It makes you realize that life is short. The support we received was overwhelming. I mean, it was, I think that, that was probably what get to me more than anything. I like to be the one helping. It, it pleases me to help people. And so I knew that if I turned people away I knew how I would feel if somebody turned me away from somebody who wanted to help me. You really just have to let people do what they're gifted to do. I think it's the biggest thing. And, and you'll be blessed by letting people do what they're blessed to do.
Experience our exclusive vacation collection.