Did Visitors Bureau Turn Away Children Seeking Shelter From Tornado?

Union Station houses the visitors center and when tourists come to town they often stop here. March first a group of 4th graders from Spanish Fort Elementary was being introduced to the capital city.>

There are obviously 2 sides to any controversy. One point both sides agree on is that the visit of the children started here at the visitor information center at union station. After that some points differ depending on who is telling the story.

The group from Spanish Fort say they were turned away from here.  Terry Wilhite is the Baldwin School Assistant superintendent, "It's still unacceptable to be turned away in a moment when harm is potentiall present."

But Dawn Hathcock, vice president of the Montgomery Area Convention and Visitors bureau says "by no means were they told to go home." "In fact they were brought back in, until we could find a place for them to stay."

An assistant principal says some adults ran to the Embassy Suites to ask for shelter for the children and were denied.

Tim Peterson is the interium general manager of the hotel.  He says they offer a big apology, "Right now I'm in the midst of researching which manager or employee denied access to our hotel...and believe me, there will be discipline accordingly."

Peterson has only been in Montgomery a couple of days, but he says no one should be denied shelter during a potential disaster.

The Spanish Fort folks do commend the city's staff, who stepped in and took charge.  Terry Wilhite says, "We're very appreciative of Mayor Bobby Bright and the city council for coming through in impromptu fashion in a heroic way."

Mayor Bobby Bright commends his staff, Assistant Michael Briddell and EMA Director Anita Patterson, for stepping up to the plate, "We were in contact with the national weather bureau in Birmingham and we knew from them that it was o.k. to transport from one location to another."

That "safer" location was deemed to be the armory on Madison Avenue. The children were fed, employees set up a tv screen and they stayed here until it was safe to go home sometime after 8 p.m.

No matter which version you believe the children will have tales to tell for sometime to come.

Reporter:  Ashley Anderson