The International Phil Campbell Convention was going to be a quirky, weird event — the strangest and most entertaining thing I could imagine. Dozens of people named Phil and Phyllis Campbell, from California to New Hampshire, from Canada to Australia, were going to make a pilgrimage from all over the world to the isolated town of Phil Campbell, Alabama. People coming, with nothing in common but a name.
The town was going to welcome us with open arms. They had a parade planned for us Phil Campbells. They were going to barbecue a classic Southern meal for us and only charge us for the meat and not for the many hours of labor involved. Some residents were willing to pick us up from the nearby airports upon our arrival, and residents were opening their homes to us if we didn’t have the money to stay in the hotel nearby.
I still relish the event that would have been.
A tornado almost completely destroyed the 1,000-person town of Phil Campbell on the afternoon of April 27th. Its 175 mile-per-hour winds cut a path 12 miles long and half a mile wide. A hundred homes, two churches, a gas station, and a number of retail stores were utterly destroyed, and more than 26 people were killed. Every story I’ve heard about the deadly, churning twister is more horrible and more sad than the one that came before.
The convention was set for June 17th-18th of this year. The Phil Campbells of the world are still coming, only not in celebration but to help clean up. We’ve been organizing, as best as we can given the distances that separate us, to show our solidarity, and to raise some funds for the town’s tornado survivors.
And our website: I'm With Phil.
In a related story, another former staffer Richard Banks reports on a hero in Pratt City, Alabama, at Business Minded: The MBQ Blog.