It’s been a long time coming, but Teandre and Carletta Wooley have finally made it home.
Ten years to the day their house trailer and all they owned were destroyed by an EF4 tornado on April 27, 2011, the couple has a home to call their own.
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On Tuesday, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa and many members of the community met to dedicate the Wooley’s new home at 106 Juanita Drive. The attractive house is the last Habitat structure that will be built in that neighborhood.
“This is a really wonderful day,” said Habitat Executive Director Ellen Potts. “There are those days in your life, if you live long enough, that are the dates that will live in infamy. For me, and I suspect for many of you, April 27, 2011, is one of those dates, before which and after which you mark time. You say ‘before the tornado, or that was after the tornado.’
“So, we are remembering that day today and remembering the catastrophe which was that day,” Potts said. “Remembering the 53 people who lost their lives, remembering so many who lost their homes, their livelihoods, their possessions, they may have lost physical function on that day. And we are mourning that day.”
Potts noted that the tornado’s path ran through Juanita Drive, which now is a neighborhood of Habitat homes. In just six minutes, tornadoes in Tuscaloosa created enough debris to fill Bryant-Denny Stadium four times over.
Potts said that being able to provide a home for the Wooleys is a bright spot for the community, as part of the recovery from that tumultuous time.
Wooley recalls dreadful day of loss
On the day of the terrible devastation, Wooley and his wife lived in Holt, about 6 miles from Tuscaloosa. The couple’s mobile home was located behind the Express Lucky Dollar convenience store on Crescent Ridge Road. The family moved into the trailer in March 2010 with their then-9-year-old son, A.J.
Teandre Wooley recalled the circumstances that led to the family fleeing their home: “The convenience store had a siren, and that siren kept going off consistently. We knew the weather was crazy. We were used to hearing sirens, but when we heard them going off simultaneously, something told my wife we needed to leave.”
The Wooleys quickly gathered their son, and Teandre took the family about 10 miles away, to his sister-in-law’s Running Brook apartment complex.
“We went to my sister-in-law’s house and you could see the tornado in the distance,” Wooley said. “My son was scared.”
Later, the couple learned about the extensive tornado damage, but didn’t know right away that their home had been hit.
“It wasn’t until the next day when we tried to get home that we realized how bad it was,” Wooley said. “At first, the National Guard wouldn’t let us in. We tried to salvage what we could, but the only thing left was a few family pictures and my son’s bicycle.”
“Holt isn’t that big,” he said. “It’s something realizing that we were directly in the path of that tornado, near the convenience store. There was nothing left.”
The pastel bedroom suits Eternity very well. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
A cozy snack nook awaits. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
A.J.’s bedroom has everything he needs. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
The spacious family bathroom. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
The relaxing master retreat. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
The comfortable living room. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
A quiet reading area in the corner of the living room. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
Carletta, Eternity and Anthony “A.J.” Wooley are thrilled with their new home. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
The Wooley home is the last Habitat house to be built at Juanita Drive. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
Habitat Executive Director Potts, with Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox, was ecstatic to welcome the Wooleys to their new home. (Donna Cope / Alabama NewsCenter)
At the time they lost their home, the Wooleys didn’t know anything about Habitat for Humanity. About two years ago, the couple learned about the organization from a friend.
“All of this happened so long ago, nobody knew we were in the tornado,” Wooley said. “All of us have been staying in a one-bedroom apartment since 2018.”
Wooley said that he and his family are excited to take ownership of 106 Juanita Drive. With other community members, the couple walked through the home, “oohing” and “aahing” as they went. The nonprofit High Socks for Hope furnished the home, providing decorations, lamps, tables, beds, bedding and new mattresses. The couple’s young daughter, Eternity, is thrilled to have her own bedroom, and A.J., now a teenager, has the privacy of his own room.
“We actually have a place we can call our own now,” Wooley said. “We’d never have had that in a million years without Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa. It’s been a wonderful experience.”