Father talks about losing daughter in April tornado outbreak - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Father talks about losing daughter in April tornado outbreak

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MADISON, AL (WAFF) -

As a parent, we send our children off to college after years of preparation. We make sure they know the basics of living independently. We talk to our daughters about personal safety, but we never imagine the unimaginable - that one of the biggest things to fear is a funnel cloud.

On April 27th last year, a twister in Tuscaloosa took Shannon Brown's little girl. He may be a head football coach at Ardmore High School and a former NFL and University of Alabama football stand-out, but now he's just a father still dealing with enormous grief.

It's been a very long year and it's not over yet. Brown jumps in his truck every morning and afternoon and says good morning and good night to his precious Loryn. He keeps her picture on his dashboard.

"Look at that bright smile," he says. "I'll tell you right now, I'm still not over it and never will be. I'm just telling you, I won't be," he said.

He's not over finding her dead and having to identify her body, but at least he is over the initial shock. Last year when he spoke, he was overwhelmed with grief and could hardly speak.

"She was a precious, precious, thing. Words can just not describe it. I am so sorry," he said.

Brown drove all night from Madison literally through a state of debris and total darkness to reach his first born. His worst fears were confirmed. Loryn, her roommates and their home, were all gone.

"There really wasn't much there. It was like a bomb went off. They were all in the center of the house underneath the stairwell just like you're supposed to be with all their comforters and blankets. We recovered Loryn. I had to identify her body. I've been dealt life's toughest blow. Without question, life's toughest blow," he said.
It took him nine months, but he finally visited Loryn's grave for conversation and comfort.

"I took her some flowers and we sat down and talked for hours. It was a very, very tough day, but also therapeutic," said Brown.
Digging in the dirt and getting outdoors with his two younger children is also therapeutic and he finds a special peace in a perennial he planted in Loryn's memory. It's a beautiful hot pink azalea.

"It's Loryn. She's just full of blooms right now," he said.

Loryn was bright as a child and full of life, according to her dad. Now, when he looks at her picture on his dashboard or places flowers on her grave, he can't avoid her senior quote in her high school yearbook. It's the inscription now on her marker. This beautiful wise daughter, he says, still speaks to him from the grave.

"Live life to the fullest. It's not the years in your life, but the life in your years," Loryn had written.
Loryn Brown was taking classes at Shelton State, planning to transfer to the University of Alabama this fall. Instead, there will be a deserving student from her home town attending U of A, using an endowed scholarship established in Loryn's name.

In death, Loryn will live on. Shannon Brown is in Tuscaloosa planning to be part of the Community-wide service planned for Friday. He's also dedicating a magnolia tree he planted in front of the home where Loryn died.

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