"How we conduct ourselves in the days and weeks ahead will determine how our citizens will feel about our future," he recalled saying. "We have to be calm and we have to be caring."
The city's disaster response, honed during a Federal Emergency Management Agency session two years ago, has won plaudits.
"We're going to make mistakes," he said. "But the mistakes we're going to make are from an intensity of effort."
Maddox understands city government. Before becoming mayor, he served a term on the city council.
Since the storm, Maddox's attire has been plain, often a polo shirt, cargo pants and work boots. The married father of two spends at least two hours in the affected areas every day, offering hugs and handshakes and hauling cases of water.
University President Robert Witt said Maddox has helped restore some sense of normalcy to the reeling city.
"I think his behavior in the initial hours and days after the storm did more to cause a devastated city to believe things would get better because they had a leader who would function extremely well in a crisis situation." Witt said.
Residents have praised Maddox, a Tuscaloosa native who graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he played football for four years and won a public speaking scholarship.
Anne Stickney, who has lived in Tuscaloosa for 35 years, said she liked that Maddox was out in the community, not just working in city hall.
"He's sunburned!" she exclaimed. "You don't get sunburned sitting in your office. He's out there doing something."
Blinder is a University of Alabama student contributing to the AP's coverage of the tornadoes in the South.
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