LEE COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - CJ Battle was out volunteering Saturday, helping to clean up the remnants of homes and debris left by an EF-4 tornado a week ago. But where Battle was cleaning up was a familiar place.
“Most of us have been together and known each other since kindergarten,” he said.
Saturday, Battle was out cleaning up at what used to be the home of his childhood friend. Battle’s friend Eric and Eric’s family lost their lives to last week’s storm.
“He was just here visiting his mom and dad, allowing his kids to visit their grandparents and the first storm hit,” he said. “He called his wife and said that he was going to try to get out of here and then the second storm came through and he didn’t make it.”
“We all went to school together, yes ma’am. We all grew up together,” Battle said.
Battle grew up just a few miles away from where the tornado hit.
“I actually moved away and when I found out the community had been hit, I just come around and try help out like everybody else,” Battle said.
He said he and his friends did everything together growing up.
“Played little league sports together, high school sports together,” he said.
He said he even remembered playing at the very house where he was picking up debris.
“Until you start seeing the personal effects, the clothing items, pictures, multi-generational keepsakes, you know these were real people,” said Battle.
Some of those items belonging to people he knew.
“Ultimately you try not to really think about it when you’re here. Staying busy allows you to stay focused,” he said.
Focusing on moving forward, but never forgetting.
“Make sure your people know that you love them, because you never know when it’s going to be their time,” said Battle.
Battle now lives in Florida, but will always call Lee County home.