The old courthouse in Monroeville is a popular tourist destination. It was the model for the courthouse in the movie "To Kill a Mockingbird." But when Hurricane Ivan roared up from the south, Monroeville almost lost the historic building. Then, an unlikely group of volunteers stepped in.
"It is a priceless treasure to us," said historian Kathy McCoy, who believes that Ivan's 113-mile-per-hour winds could have destroyed the famous courthouse. "The wind would have come in and may have lifted the roof off the building," she explained.
The reason it didn't? A movie crew that just happened to be filming at the site stepped up and pitched in. "We were starting to hear reports of this impending hurricane," explained producer Gloria Everett. "And at that point, we were saying, 'Wow, this doesn't sound like a little bit of wind, this could really knock us out!'"
So, the crew used its hydraulic lifts to board up the courthouse's 80 windows. "We normally use them to put our big daylight-simulating lights on, so we can reach several stories high," said lighting engineer Hollywood Heard.
And as if that wasn't enough, the independent movie makers also donated their generator to keep the town's 911 center operating. "We just ran over there with the generator and made it work," Everett said.
Kathy McCoy got a small movie role out of it all. She plays the stenographer. "And they have worked me to death, but I feel like I owe them!" she explained.
After all, she says she would do anything for her Hollywood heroes. "What would the odds be that the day a category 4 hurricane comes through your town, you would have the equipment and the crew to board up your courthouse?" She calls it a miracle.
The crew lost three days of filming because of the storm, which translates into several thousand dollars. But with all the help they've gotten from the people of Monroeville, they say they were glad to return the favor.
The film is called "Heavens Fall." It chronicles the story of Alabama's historic Scottsboro Boys rape trial, which ultimately led to the elimination of white-only juries. It's scheduled to be released this spring.