Union University: What I Know

My heart is heavy today.

Last night around 7 pm a tornado struck my town, Jackson, TN, and hit the university where I attended and now teach, Union University. I experienced a tornado there my junior year, and while that was scary and there was some damage, the damage that was done last night is far, far worse. For several hours students were trapped under collapsed buildings, some dorms have been completely destroyed, and others have suffered extensive damage. 1,200 students live on campus at Union, and I praise God when I say that all of them survived this incredibly destructive storm. According to a press conference given by David Dockery, the President of the university, 51 students were taken to the hospital and 9 were kept overnight. While some had serious injuries, no injuries appear to be life-threatening. Those who were trapped have been rescued, and all students are either going home, staying with friends or faculty or at local churches and shelters. Please say some prayers for these students. After seeing some photos of the dorms, my eyes filled with tears because it is so shocking to see how just a few seconds of storm can cause so much damage, and I know the students must have been absolutely terrified, and some are probably still in shock. I love these students, and my heart goes out to them, and I pray that right now all of them are somewhere safe, feeling loved and cared for. As for the campus itself, much damage has been wrought. About 40% of the residence life buildings were destroyed and another 40% have widespread damage, leaving only about 20% in somewhat decent condition. One of the administrative buildings sustained damage to the second floor offices, one academic building (Pennick) has roof damage, and the two newest buildings, White Hall and Jennings, both have severe damage. I know the roof of Jennings is gone, and water damage seeped through all 3 floors, destorying a library of valuable books and countless numbers of musical instruments and other equipment. White Hall, which was just completed last year to the tune of about $20 million, houses many of the sciences, including the nursing department, so I imagine that the extent of the damage to the scientific technology there is significant. Virtually all of the buildings on campus except for one have some damage. Early estimates place the cost for repair in the $30 million range, but I imagine it will be much more. In 2002, the damage was $2.6 million. This is without a doubt the most serious event to strike Union. Classes are cancelled until Feb. 18, at the earliest. I can’t even express with words how much I love this university, how much I love these students, how much I cling to my own memories of being a student on that great campus. I just ask that you join me in praying for Union students, and pray for the rebuilding efforts, as it will take many, many months to recover from this.

*** UPDATE: Stephen and I drove by campus a few hours ago, and what I saw brought me to tears immediately. The campus looks like a war zone. Dorms are rubble, trees are down, cars are upside down and strewn all over. It’s unbelievable how much damage can happen so quickly. Seeing the damage firsthand only strengthened my love of the Lord and my praise to Him for sparing all lives involved. Certainly people are asking why this could happen, and I certainly don’t have an answer, but I can’t help but think, isn’t it better to happen to people who know God and can spread His glory through this tragedy? Already there are testimonies on national news networks of the goodness and faithfulness of God. I pray that those who do not know Him would be moved by the faith of the Union community and seek to know the Lord we love and praise and worship, even in the midst of the storm. I pray faith will be strengthened, hearts comforted and renewed with love for Him and others, and lives forever altered for the Kingdom. Here’s a link to some photos of the damage: http://www.flickr.com/photos/41208530@N00/

Visit uuemergency.com for more information.

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