PRATT CITY, Ala (Reuters) - Tytiana Robinson squealed on Thursday as she spotted the perfect size three silver gown for her high school prom.
Last week, the twisters that ripped through Alabama destroyed her family’s home, along with those of many fellow students at P.D. Jackson Olin High School in Pratt City.
But thanks to an outpouring of dress donations, Robinson and her classmates will be able to attend their prom Friday night — a blissful, if brief, return to normalcy.
“It makes me feel so good to know that people actually care about us,” said Robinson, 17.
More than 230 people died in Alabama on April 27. Nearly half of the 1,200 students at Jackson Olin were affected by the deadly tornado that smashed their historic town of Victorian cottages and 1920’s vintage bungalows, said principal Janice Drake.
On Thursday, a group of teens got a break from the suffering.
The outpouring of finery was the brainchild of a school staffer’s mother. At a wedding shower Sunday, she asked a principal from a school in nearby Shelby County, south of Birmingham, if there might be girls willing to donate prom dresses.
An email went out, Tweets and Facebook messages were posted, and more than 1,000 dresses piled in from area teens, shops and donors in other states.
There were enough donations to share with schools in other storm-damaged towns in Alabama and Mississippi.
“We just want these babies to have a special moment, a brief return to normalcy,” said Cindy Warner, spokeswoman for Shelby County Schools.
Jackson Olin student Brandi Johnson looked like a Disney princess as she twirled in a frothy pink dress at the school on Thursday. Down the hall from the storage room packed with 300 dresses was a selection of shoes, gloves, jewelry and purses.
“I didn’t think I would find anything this pretty,” said Johnson, 18, who lost everything as tornado winds busted windows and sucked out the contents of her home.
There were so many donations that the school opened the free shopping to all seniors, many of whom were too poor to buy a dress for the special occasion.
A silky gown slipped easily over the head of 18-year-old Antoinette Daniel, who tried on prom dresses for the first time in her life. “I have never been because I couldn’t afford it,” she said.
One girl who donated, a survivor of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, wrote a note to the teen who might choose her strapless cocktail dress.
“I hope you will have a few hours of happiness at your prom,” the letter read. “I assure you, you will make it through this difficult time.”
Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune