I’m sure you’ve read about the horrible outbreak of tornadoes that raked across Arkansas, Tennesees and Kentucky this week. One of the hardest hit places was Union University in Jackson, Tennessee– where my son Drew attends. An F4 tornado raked across the middle of the campus, slamming directly into the dorm complexes wheer 1200 students live. Miraculously, no one was killed or seriously injured beyond afew broken bones. For that, we praise God with everything we have.
We talked with Drew through the event until his phone died. (Nothing quite like being 5 hours away and having 20 second conversaitons like, ‘The sirens are going off and I’ve got to go….I’m standing outside my dorm and looking into what was my room…we’ve got to go get the girls out of their dorms.” We knew he was ok, but had lost all his possessions when the walls of his 2nd-story room collapsed and the roof was removed. We knew that that they were having to dig students out of the rubble. What we were’nt prepared for was the utter scene of destruciton before us when we arrived the enxt afternoon. It was at that moment that we knoew how blessed we were to still have our son.
I’m going to get out of the way and let Drew describe his experiences. Pray for Drew, the other Union students, and Dr. David Dockery and other leaders at Union who are trying to regroup and decide what comes next.
2.5.08. A day that will be etched in my mind forever –4:32am Wednesday, Feb 6
It is almost 3am central time and I am not at all sleepy. I so overwhelmed with the past 4-5 hours that I couldn’t even begin to think about sleeping. If you do not know, my school was hit tonight by a F3-F4 sized tornado (for those who didn’t watch Twister growing up, that’s pretty big). It came down behind my school in an open field. The funny thing was there were a lot of students out running around, having a good time, thinking it was a false alarm.
I walked outside, seeing how much fun was going on and when a bolt of lightening struck behind that field, I noticed the tornado. Everyone retreated indoors and waited for the most intense 10 minutes of my life. I was sitting in a chair, facing away from the door. The room had stadium seating couches, so there wasn’t any worry about glass being shot in.
But we forgot about the kitchen window which was directly in front of me. The tornado came from the field, through the 50-60 something car parking lot, tossing cars upside down, throwing pieces of concrete through windshields, and destroying everything. It was just warming up. It then came down the aisle that is made between my row of dorms and another building of dorms.
You know that intense feeling in your ears you get when you ride an airplane? Well, that stuffy noise filled our ears as the tornado came closer to my room. The kitchen window shattered. Pieces of glass were hitting me. One even cut my forehead! I then fell to the ground with 8 other guys and we put a bed mat over us to protect us. I remember at that precise moment looking up at the ceiling and seeing the roof turn orange. Bright orange. It was at that moment that I realized that this was a very serious matter and people’s lives are in danger. After that had ended, we waited a second and then went outside to assess the damage, along with all the men from Watters living complex.
Think back, if you have seen it, to any scene in Twister where a town was completely destroyed. That’s what our side of the campus looked like. Concrete was everywhere, we were stepping over power lines, and our commons had collapsed with people inside. Take my room for example. When you walked into my room on Feb. 4th 2008 you would open the door and see a wall where my desk is with my laptop and books. If you open my door now, you see the remains of the commons. I have no back wall, whatsoever, and even though I haven’t checked it out yet, I am sure I have none of the possessions I brought with me to school.
I haven’t seen it with my own eyes yet, but I hear Hurt living complex (girls) maybe had the most collective damage of them all. So, naturally, as good gentleman do, the guys were nervous for the safety of the women and wanted to check on them. We were then directed to go into one of the buildings where the classes are.
Here is where the fun begins. Mass pandemonium broke loose as students began to search for friends, fire fighters and staff rush up and down the hallways (trying to maintain order). Then I saw a miraculous thing. I saw unity at Union like I have never seen before in my entire life. It is expected for times of tragedy but it was such natural unity and care for one another that I knew God was working and stirring of hearts of people that night.
God was present before, during, and in the aftermath of the events of 2.5.08. I know it’s hard to think about because so much damage was caused but look at it from a positive standpoint. Not only do we not have classes for a while (kidding…lack of sleep humor) but no one was killed. With collapsing buildings, it is a shock that no one was killed. That was God and if you can’t recognize it, then you need to put on some glasses and open your eyes. As, people started to leave, I was given the opportunity to come to a Young Life house for the night. I saw this as God taking bring me to safety. I took it and prayed for the rest of the night. I PRAISE GOD WITH ALL MY HEART SOUL MIND AND STRENGTH that no one was killed. I realize that there are serious injuries, but if it comes down to serious injuries or a life being taken. I will take the injuries and so would you.
All I can think about now is
Psalm 78:53 “He held them in safety, so they would not be afraid…”
Psalm 9:9 “For the Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a strong hold in times of trouble.”
Psalm 86:7 “In the Day of my trouble I call upon you, for you answer me.”
Romans 5:8 “But God showed his love for us in this. That while we were still sinners. Christ died for us.”
I just want all you Union students out there to know that I love you all and I am praying for your safety as you return home or wherever you are going. Cling to the Bible. It is times like these when we need it most!