Pelham company collecting storm memoirs

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

After JaAnne Dezenzio, one of the owners of the Pelham-based Rocky Heights Print and Binding company, saw the outpouring of support from Alabama residents in the wake of the April 27 tornadoes, she knew she had to do something to help.

Dezenzio, a Birmingham resident, experienced minor damage at her house during the outbreak, but she said she considered herself lucky compared to many other Alabama residents.

“I was one of the lucky ones. We had some trees take out a swing set and damage a fence, but I was lucky,” she said. “There were so many people in Alabama who lost so much.”

As the days passed following the devastating storms, Dezenzio said she began to hear some “amazing” stories from people who experienced the storms firsthand and from those who rushed to aid those in need after the tornadoes hit.

“There was just such an outpouring of support for the people who lost everything,” she said. “I thought it would be wonderful to collect the stories of what people went through and show the stories of support that came after the storms.”

Dezenzio then began seeking stories and photos from those who were affected by the natural disaster in the hopes of organizing and publishing the information as a record of the event.

Soon, story and photo submissions began pouring in, and Dezenzio said she was amazed at what she saw.

One submission was an iPhone photograph of a tornado seconds before it struck an apartment complex. Another depicted rows of small crosses placed in front of a church in memory of the church members who lost their lives during the event.

From the submissions, Rocky Heights is planning to release a three-book collection. One book, titled “Through the Storm, Stories of Hope and Inspiration,” will chronicle the stories from those who lived through the storms and who helped with the ensuing recovery efforts.

The second book, titled “April 27, 2011: Portraits of Loss, Survival and Hope,” will include photos taken during and after the outbreak. The third book, titled “Glimpses of God in Alabama, April 27, 2011,” will be designed as a devotional book, and will include daily scriptures and words of encouragement submitted by religious officials and members of the public.

But Dezenzio said she doesn’t only want to collect and distribute the information, she wants also to help those whose stories were told.

Through the project, Rocky Heights has partnered with the Christian Service Mission and Hands on Birmingham charitable organizations, which will receive all proceeds from the book sales, Dezenzio said.

“We are hoping to print them in mid-August, but we may have to push that back a little bit just because it’s taking us longer than we thought to comb through the submissions,” Dezenzio said.

The company is still accepting submissions for the books at Hopeforbama.org. Pre-orders for the books are also available at the website.