In the blink of an eye, our home was gone.
On Monday night, Jacksonville State University’s breathtakingly beautiful campus was hit by an EF-3 tornado that had winds up to 135 mph. What was initially a chance of bad weather turned into an absolute tragedy in a matter of minutes.
For those who did not grow up in Jacksonville, many of us came to Jacksonville as wide-eyed, eager college freshmen. It was in Jacksonville where we grew up. We found our support system, began to discover who we truly are, found our best friends, met professors and faculty members that took us under their wings and inspired us to be great people, fell in love, and made countless memories.
Driving through campus, you can’t help but to have tears in your eyes. That 8:00 AM geology lecture that you hated in Martin Hall, the building where you had what seemed like 100 nursing tests a week, business, finance, and marketing lectures, freshmen dorms that you met your best friends at, and multiple athletic facilities? These buildings don’t even look like buildings anymore. And that’s just the campus.
So many families’, faculty members, and students’ homes off campus were destroyed. Gamecock Village and The Reserve suffered a tremendous amount of damage and many students may not ever be able to return to save some of their belongings. Fortunately, the University was on spring break during the storm, which is a blessing. Had most of the population not been out of town, the result could be entirely different. Jacksonville made it out of this tragedy without a single causality. There is no ideal time for something like this to occur, but we can be endlessly thankful that this occurred when it did.
Everything we’ve known is now entirely different. We were all planning on returning from spring break, going back to class, finishing finals, and graduating on May 4th. Now, everything is different. Now, we will drive through campus with memories of what it used to be. We will look at new apartment complexes, new dorms, new facilities, and look back on what used to be there. Students will not be able to return to their homes like they had planned to. Jacksonville State University will never be the same.
However, Jacksonville State University will come back stronger than ever. In less than a week, Alabama Power was able to re-connect all power lines and restore almost all power in Jacksonville. The University is working endlessly to survey damage, create new housing arrangements for students, and figuring out HOW to finish the semester. The efforts being made by both the University and the community is incredible.
The amount of support and hard work seen thus far in Jacksonville is truly inspiring. The community has come together, opened their own homes to those who are displaced, have volunteered all hours of the day to clean debris, and have set up multiple help centers to assist those in need. President John M. Beehler summed up the community of Jacksonville best when he said, “As a result, this will call for the kind of planning, creativity, and flexibility for which the Gamecocks are known. But there should be no doubt about this: We will fulfill every obligation to our students through our dedicated faculty and employees.”
There are so many questions right now, without any answers. There will be a sense of uncertainty for the next days, weeks, and months. But with the help of our community, Jacksonville will return stronger than before, more beautiful than before. We are #JSUStrong.
Interested in donating? https://www.gofundme.com/jsustrong