The Salem tornado through the eyes of a first responder

SALEM, AL (WTVM) - The EF3 tornado that ripped through east Alabama brought first responders from Lee and several surrounding counties to the rescue.

News Leader 9's Tyrone McCoy caught up with one of the first crews on the scene to recount the experience through their eyes.

The day after the tornado ripped through the Highway 169 area of Salem, Alabama, this is the devastation that remains. I'm actually kneeling in an area that used to be someone's bedroom. First responders say this is nothing compared to what they saw.

"The houses were just totaled," said Bradley Bowen with the Salem Volunteer Fire Department. "They were just leveled. It was something that's hard to describe."

It started just before 4 a.m. Central Time. Bradley Bowen tells us crews at the Salem Volunteer Fire Department were standing by for severe weather when the calls started pouring in.

"We'd gotten a call for a patient trapped in her home, walls have collapsed in on her and she couldn't get out," he added.

The crew suited up and started the eight mile trek from the fire department, to the home located on Highway 169.

"It's was so dark and I've been down this road many times," Bowen said about the scene. "I know the community like the back of my hand. I know where I would be at, but it was so dark and the trees were blown over. Signs were gone. Houses were gone."

Stopping the fire engine before it got to the destruction zone. When Bowen and his crew got out of the truck, he says they walked ahead to begin their search efforts.

"We heard some crying out of someone who was trapped and we go over there to rescue them," he explains. "And we end up having to go get our jaws of life out and lift the roof of this patient."

First responders from over 10 communities joined the relief efforts that rescued everyone affected, with only minor injuries.

Bowen adds that the community pitched in to help, telling them who was where and who was missing. The kind words offered from those pulled from the debris were the driving force for this volunteer.

"Somebody trapped in a house and you just seeing them needing help and giving them the help they need and they're so grateful for it," Bowen shared with a smile.

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