Legislators: bin Laden’s death affects state’s storm recovery

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Tornado recovery efforts in Alabama could be impacted by the May 1 death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, according to Shelby County legislators.

U.S. President Barack Obama shifted national media attention from the catastrophic April 27 tornado damage in Tuscaloosa, Jefferson County and other parts of Alabama when he announced bin Laden’s death during a May 1 conference, said a pair of local legislators.

“From a national standpoint, I think his death does affect our recovery efforts here,” said state Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster. “At least temporarily, it does take the focus away from the devastation we suffered here.”

Headlines and news clips on national news agencies quickly shifted from coverage of the Alabama tornado damage to the terrorist leader’s death, which could hinder the state’s recovery efforts, Ward said.

“We, as a people, are news cycle-driven. Whatever is on the news, that is where our focus is going to be,” Ward said. “The biggest thing is to keep the national attention here on us. The more people know what is happening down here, the more help we can get.

“I feel like the Osama assassination has taken it off of us, but I hope it is only temporary.”

State Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R-Indian Springs, said bin Laden’s death has not taken local news coverage off the tornado damage, but agreed it has taken the country’s eyes off Alabama.

“I don’t think it really has affected the state’s attention. In national news, it may have,” McClurkin said. “There still is news about what happened in Alabama. We still have a lot of work to do to bring back the essentials to the area hit by the storms.”

Though bin Laden’s death may negatively impact the state’s recovery efforts, Ward and McClurkin said they were glad to hear the terrorist leader was killed.

“I think it’s extra important that bin Laden was killed,” McClurkin said. “When you get the leader of Al Qaeda, that’s good news. I’m excited about that.”

“Despite how glad we are that he is gone, I hope people don’t forget the tragedy here in Alabama,” Ward said.