On Wednesday, Taylor Nichol’s Tuscaloosa apartment was destroyed by the tornado. On Friday, he got a letter — the mail woman pulled up to the rubble and started shouting names — from the Auburn University Foundation thanking him for his support.
“Yes, it’s dated the day of the tornado,” Nichols replied after tweeting a photo of the letter Saturday morning. “Hadn’t even noticed that part.”
Nichols, a University of Alabama law student, is the person responsible for Tide For Toomer’s, a social media-driven fundraising campaign started in late February by Nichols and several other Alabama fans to help save the poisoned Toomer’s Corner oak trees, and as a show of support for their cross-state rivals. On March 25, Nichols and other Tide For Toomer’s organizers met AUF representatives in Auburn and delivered an over-sized, commemorative check for $50,000 made out to the Toomer’s Trees and Traditions Fund (the actual money the group raised was transferred via PayPal).
A month later, he’s one of thousands to whom the rivalry-transcending goodwill gesture is being returned via Toomer’s For Tuscaloosa. As Auburn fans tracked the Tuscaloosa tornado via Twitter, Nichols and his wife Whitney took cover in the laundry room of their second story apartment, which in just 30 seconds was rendered uninhabitable.
“Most of it is still standing but basically one wall of the building was sheared off and taken away and part of the roof over us is gone,” he said. “We ended up a lot better than most of the people around us. There are houses that are completely flattened and cinder block storefronts that are piles of rubble.”
Nichols, a lifelong Alabama fan, says he has plenty to worry about over the next several weeks — navigating insurance claims, finding a new place to live. “Hating Auburn,” he says, won’t make the cut.
“I think the Toomer’s trees and now the tornado in Tuscaloosa gives people a lot of perspective on the rivalry,” he says. “Part of the problem with someone like Harvey Updyke is that he’s so wrapped up in the rivalry he loses sense of reality, and reality is what matters now. I love to trash talk Auburn. I never miss an opportunity. But it has its limits. Auburn fans are fellow Alabamians and they’re people at an SEC school, and they’re people a lot like me. This sort of thing puts the rivalry in perspective and reminds people that the rivalry is, frankly, for entertainment purposes. And God knows we love it and it’s a huge deal to all of us. But it’s not everything.”
Nichols says Tide For Toomer’s quickly reached out to Toomer’s For Tuscaloosa via Facebook to help facilitate the group’s relief efforts.
“Obviously, we’re all about Toomer’s For Tuscaloosa.”
Click here for more of Nichols’ photos from Tuscaloosa.
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