In 1997, a man named Richard Shermin worked an interesting summer job for a friend of his. His friend, author Justin Laramy, was compiling a book of angel stories, a topic that both men had always had especial interest. Richard, for seven dollars an hour, helped his friend read through and find the most interesting angel stories sent to them.
They used Laramy’s house for this endeavor. Scattered about his living room were piles for ‘interesting’, ‘generic’, ‘boring’, and ‘made-up’. They would take turns reading aloud from the letters they received. One that Shermin picked up had no return address. It simply had the initials RS written in the upper left corner. Written in shaky penmanship, Shermin struggled to read the handwriting of the excited or upset correspondant.
“This is my angel. She is sent to me from above in the form of this statue. I recall the day it happened like yesterday. I have a route through these cities in the Birmingham Alabama area where I check on cemeteries for upkeep.
I was driving my truck past this cemetery one April evening. Well, I thought I saw something and got out to investigate. As it would happen, I saw this statue of an angel in the cemetery and nothing else. I found myself entranced with it. I couldnï¿½t look away.
“I finally found the strength to move on. I got back in the truck and made for the next stop. When I got there the cemetery was in pieces. The town too was ripped apart as if someone had just mowed it down. I found out that a tornado had torn through there not 5 minutes previous. I would have been killed there.”
Enclosed was a picture of the cemetery and the statue. In a sort of shock, his friend noticed Richard drop the packet of both letter and photos. Laramy, concerned for his friend, asked what was wrong. Shermin could say nothing but instead showed the letter to Laramy. There at the bottom, signed in a familiar hand, was the name Richard Shermin.
It was obvious that Richard Shermin had not written this, as he had no angelic experiences, but the handwriting was indeed his. Neither of them could conceive how such a letter was possible. Deciding it was a hoax, Shermin himself disdainfully tossed the letter on top of the ‘made-up’ pile and didn’t give it another thought.
In March of 1998, Richard Shermin’s father died of cancer. Despite being well within retirement age, the old man was still responsible for the care of several cemeteries in north eastern Jefferson County, Alabama. The death, while evident before, came suddenly and Richard decided to continue his father’s work until a replacement could be found and hired. Every week he would drive from cemetery to cemetery checking the status.
On April 8th, a Wednesday, Richard was again on rounds. His mother begged him to wait until Thursday to do it, as she heard there was bad weather coming, but he disregarded her warning, wishing to spend his Thursday evening doing other things.
As his mother predicted, the weather turned stormy, but Richard continued his route. With the radio off, he was not aware that at 7:50 pm, central time, an F5 rated Tornado had crossed over into Jefferson County and was leaving little behind. While checking the water spickets in a Cemetery in Nolanville, he came upon a statue. It held his attention for the longest time. He knew it because he had seen it in that picture last summer.
Not wanting to believe the letter, but unable to look away, Richard stood there for the longest time trying to make sense of it. Finally he wrested himself from the angel’s gaze. It couldn’t be true. Still in doubt, he got into his truck and drove the path to Village Creek Junction. There he was shocked to find the town in shambles and the cemetery a mess. A category F5 tornado had just passed through the town.
Richard drove himself to a working phone, several miles away in Pratt City, and called Justin Laramy. The conversation was short. Laramy had heard of the tornadoes in the area but seemed satisfied that his friend was okay. “I didn’t really call to tell you I was okay, though,” said a slightly shaken Richard Shermin. “I think that maybe you should put that Richard Shermin letter into the interesting pile instead. Let’s just say, I finally believe the person who wrote it.”
There were three tornadoes that have been identified as being produced by one thunderstorm that moved across Central Alabama Wednesday evening. The first tornado affected Pickens and Tuscaloosa counties, the second affected Tuscaloosa and Jefferson counties, and the third affected St. Clair County.
That day there were three tornadoes, an F3, an F5, and an F2, that rocked the central Alabama area starting at roughly 7:00 pm and ending entirely at about 9:15 pm. More than 1 000 homes were destroyed, 250 people injured, and 32 lives lost. Thanks to an angel and a letter, one of those lives was not Richard Shermin.
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