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The two then walked out onto 15th Street and looked toward campus. The sun was setting now, blushing the western sky pink. In the distance Hoffman saw the silhouettes of mangled metal, broken trees, splintered houses and rubble piled 15 feet high. Arms around each other, their eyes still dewy, Hughes said softly to his girlfriend, "It's gone. It's just all gone."
At 5:08 p.m. on April 27, Josh Rosecrans, a catcher and relief pitcher on the Alabama baseball team, peered out a window. He lived at 308 17th Street East, near a small lake that was less than two miles from Bryant-Denny Stadium, and his eyes bulged at what he saw: The tornado was on the other side of the water, ripping up power lines, causing sparks of blue light to pop in the black sky.
Immediately, he called his father, Levi, in Edmond, Okla. "What do I do?" he asked.
"Get a mattress now and get into the tub," his father said. "Now!"
Rosecrans and his roommate, pitcher Nate Kennedy, hurried to a bathroom that was in the center of their three-bedroom house and pulled a mattress on top of them. Taped on the bathroom mirror was a piece of paper with the Biblical passage Psalm 121: 7: The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life.
The two jumped into the bathtub. Their ears popped. Then the storm hit, the shrieking wind as loud as a jet engine. "Nate, there went the roof," Rosecrans yelled, holding on to the mattress with all his might as Kennedy lay on top of him in the fetal position, also gripping the mattress. "Hang on, man, just hang on."
For 30 seconds mud sprayed everywhere, even flying into the bathtub and covering the two players. "This could be it for us," Rosecrans said. "If we go out, we go out together."
Then, a few seconds later ... silence. Rosecrans poked his head out: Their house had crumbled—the only walls left were those of the bathroom they were in—and Rosecrans could see the sky. "Oh, my God," Rosecrans said. "Everything is gone."
The two lifted themselves out of the bathtub—the Biblical passage was still taped to the mirror—and ran through their decimated neighborhood, checking to see if anyone was injured. They heard a male voice shout, "I'm over here." The players sprinted to the voice and for several minutes pulled wood and debris from a shattered house. They reached their neighbor; he was drenched in blood from a head wound. They rushed him to a nurse who was in the area; she took the man to a hospital, where he survived.
The next day Rosecrans and Kennedy walked to the house of teammate Jon Kelton, who lived less than two miles away. Several oak trees more than 150 years old and 70 feet tall were strewn across his yard, but Kelton was uninjured. As the hours passed, more baseball players arrived at Kelton's damaged house, all helping to remove debris.