Tornado Victim’s Mother Uses Acts of Kindness to Remember Daughter’s Birthday
On Apr. 27, 2011, 21-year-old University of Alabama student Loryn Brown was at her home in Tuscaloosa with her roommate, Danielle Downs. Brown's mother, Ashley Mims, called her in a panic about the incoming tornado set to hit Tuscaloosa.
“I knew where that storm was headed,” Mims said. “I stood there frozen and said, ‘Baby, it’s coming right toward you. Put your head down. Get down.’”
The tornado took the lives of both Brown and Downs that day. Mims was on her way to Tuscaloosa when she got a phone call confirming the most devastating news a parent could ever receive.
“I’ll never forget that drive to Tuscaloosa,” Mims said. “I had to hand the phone to my mom because I couldn’t even comprehend or digest what they were saying. They had just found her body at that point.”
After a decade to process what happened to her daughter, Mims remains at a loss for words.
“There’s really no words," She said. "There are no words to describe a parent that loses a child. There’s literally no word in the English language to describe this pain.”
March 19 is Brown’s birthday. Being an only child for eight-and-a-half years, Mims said holidays and celebrations were always a “big deal” in their family. To kick off Brown’s birthday month every year, the family would light off fireworks and go out for Mexican food.
As her 22nd birthday came around just shy of a year after her death, Mims was determined to keep her daughter’s day special.
“I had to come up with something to help the sad part of it and help me find the joy in this situation … where it was very hard to find the joy,” Mims said.
Starting on Brown’s 22nd birthday, March 19, 2012, Mims and her family decided they would complete 22 acts of kindness – one for every year she would have been alive. The family adds one act of kindness every year to match her age.
This year, they will have completed 31 acts of kindness for Brown’s 31st birthday.
“Your random act of kindness could be saying 'thank you,' sitting with a student that no one’s sitting with at lunch, going out of your way to do something nice for another student, telling a teacher you appreciate them," she said.
Mims tries to incorporate random acts of kindness into her everyday routine.
“When I went by the gas station, I would pay for four or five cups of coffee," she said. "If I was in line at a drive-thru, I would pay for the person behind me.”
The acts of kindness will mean a little more this year, as this is the 10-year anniversary of the tornado that killed Brown. She would have been 31 years old this year, and she lived at 31 Beverly Heights in Tuscaloosa, so the number 31 will carry more weight as Mims completes her annual acts of kindness.
This year, for one of her random acts of kindness, Mims will send a prom dress to a girl in Lee County who lost everything in a recent tornado.
“You have to do things for others to get through this … to find the joy," Mims said.
Following in her older sister's footsteps, Holly Mims is now a student at the University of Alabama. This is the first time her mother has had a child there since 2011.
“That was one of the hardest things I’ve had to face over the last 10 years because the last daughter I sent to the university didn’t come home," Mims said.
With an active spring severe weather season already underway and the 10-year anniversary of the 2011 tornado looming over Tuscaloosa, Mims doesn’t want the student body to take a potentially traumatic weather event too lightly.
“I don’t want these students to forget what happened on April 27," she said.
For all coverage pertaining to the 10-year anniversary of the April 27, 2011 tornadoes, click here.