Redstone firefighter Sandy Boyd’s retirement luncheon was scheduled April 27, 2011, at the Firehouse Pub.
But the weather had other ideas.
The tornado sirens sent everybody to the basement. Boyd and the other firefighters stood outside and watched the ominous clouds while the civilians huddled in the stairwell.
“It was scary,” Crissy Boyd, the honoree’s daughter-in-law, said. “I’ve never been so scared in my life.”
Boyd’s retirement luncheon was underway and the guests had just about finished eating when the first tornado siren sounded at about 11:30 a.m. or noon.
“We all had to go downstairs,” Boyd recalled. She confirmed, laughing, that the firefighters were outside watching the storm while the civilians were underneath the stairwell.
“After we got an all-clear, we rushed through the ceremony and then everybody left,” she said. “And it wasn’t much longer after that I went back to the office and I left early and went home. Technically that was my last day at work.”
But her service as a firefighter wasn’t over. Her home in East Limestone wasn’t damaged but her community was. She and her fellow firefighter husband, Joey, spent the next week working at the East Limestone Volunteer Fire Department.
“We helped our community. We had to do search and rescue. Our neighborhood, our community, was destroyed tremendously,” she said.
Boyd, 55, has been a member of the East Limestone Volunteer Fire Department for 42 years. Joey is the chief. Boyd became Redstone’s first trained female firefighter when she arrived in 1991 from the Athens Fire Department. She retired from Redstone with 20 years of service.
Redstone firefighter Terry Hamm, who plans to retire in October with 31 years of service, was off duty that day. “I just rode it out at home. I live in Monrovia,” he said. “It (the tornado) went around us. We lost power but there was no devastation there.”
He came to work the next day but his wife and son ended up staying with relatives in the Shoals because of the power outage. “The Arsenal was closed a few days. Of course our fire stations have backup generators so we were able to cook and do everything we wanted to do,” Hamm said.
“It was almost like an apocalyptic state out here. I mean it was just desolate.”
He remembers Sandy Boyd and her husband, Joey, who retired as a Redstone firefighter in June 2011 after 25 years.
“Even though she was small in stature … what’s the saying, how dynamite comes in small packages? When she first hired in, she was energetic, laughing, always willing to do her share of the workload as a fireman and willing to help out anybody that needed the fire department’s help,” Hamm said.