They were astounded the Bible verse was still there.
Everything else was gone. The roof of the house, the frame of the house, the furniture in the house and everything around the house. It was all sucked up into the violent vortex and devastating darkness of the terrifying tornado.
But somehow, some way, the Bible verse made it. And so did Josh Rosecrans and Nate Kennedy.
"It truly is a miracle," Rosecrans says.
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The Miracle on 17th Street.
Connie Matthes hand-wrote the Bible verse on an index card and taped it onto the bathroom mirror six years ago.
She and her husband, Dieter, bought the house at 308 17th Street in Tuscaloosa when their son Kent Matthes, now an outfielder in the Colorado Rockies organization, signed to play baseball with the University of Alabama.
Kent, an Edgewater High grad, lived in the house for four years in which he became Alabama's all-time leading home run hitter. Connie and Dieter made the trip from Orlando to Tuscaloosa and stayed at the house dozens of times so they could watch Kent's games.
Connie is a spiritual person and put the Bible verse from Psalms 121 on the bathroom mirror when Kent first moved into the house. She wanted to remind her son while he was off at college to stay close to God and to remember that God would always be there for him.
"The Lord will protect you from all harm. He will protect your life. The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever more."
"I believe those words with all my heart," Connie says.
Now more than ever.
How is it that a mother's love is so vast that it not only serves as a shelter for her own son, but for the sons of others?
Connie's son Kent moved out of the house two years ago, but the family rented it to two other Alabama players — Rosecrans and Kennedy. They, too, loved the place. It seemed like a home away from home to them. It had a family feel to it. So much so that Rosecrans even left Connie's Bible verse taped to his bathroom mirror.
"For some reason, it gave me comfort," Rosecrans says.
Rosecrans and Kennedy were in the house that afternoon a few weeks ago when they heard the storm sirens go off. They turned on the TV, saw the storm warnings and learned that an enormous funnel cloud was headed right for them. They heard a massive rumbling outside, ran to the door and saw transformers blowing up in the distance.
Rosecrans called his father, who instructed them to get into a bathtub and cover themselves with a mattress. And, so, that's what they did. For some reason, they couldn't get the mattress into the bigger bathroom so they crawled into the tub of the smaller bathroom and pulled the mattress on top of themselves.
The mammoth tornado barreled right through the middle of the house, destroying everything in its path. "We thought our time had come," Rosecrans says. "We thought we were going to die."
The two baseball players could feel their ears popping and hear the walls being ripped away and sucked up around them. The adrenaline kicked in and they held onto that mattress with all the muscle they could muster.
The storm lasted only 20 seconds and it was gone. The thundering roar was loud when it came through, but the silence after it passed was even more deafening.
Rosecrans and Kennedy lifted the mattress and were flabbergasted by what they saw.
The house was totally destroyed. The other bathroom and the other tub were nowhere to be found. All that was left was the concrete slab of the house, parts of two walls and their little tub.
And the Bible verse. It was still there on the battered mirror.
"The Lord will protect you from all harm."
The phone line crackles as Rosecrans tells the story about how one little bathtub became their haven.
His voice crackles, too.
"We were blessed," he says. "It was like that bathroom had a shield around it."
They jumped out of the tub and rushed outside to see how their friends and neighbors had fared. Nearly every house on the block had been leveled and relegated to a pile of rubble. The nearby lake where ducks and swans serenely paddled around was instead filled with floating furniture.
They ran to the house of the old man who lived behind them and managed to dig him out from underneath a pile of wood and bricks. Hundreds of others weren't so lucky.
Some of the stories you read and hear about the tornado are heartbreaking. Like when the Alabama baseball team helped the mother of one of the six Alabama students killed search the wreckage for the white dress the mother wanted to bury her daughter in.
Nearly 250 people were killed and billions of dollars in property destroyed by the deadly swath of tornadoes that roared through Alabama on April 27.
The house at 308 17th Street was one of the casualties. It is gone now, but not forgotten.
"It did its job," Connie Matthes says. "It protected and it sheltered two wonderful boys."
You know what they say, right? ... "A house is made of walls and beams; a home is built with love and dreams."
Sometimes, it doesn't matter how big your house is or how much it costs.
Sometimes, all you need is a little bathtub filled with a lot of faith.
"I'm going to keep that Bible verse with me for the rest of my life," Rosecrans says.