Tornadoes ravaged and destroyed Union University in Jackson, TN
Last Tuesday, February 5, 2008 was just another day in the town of Jackson, Tennessee until a tornado decided to touch down on the campus of a small Christian college called Union University and quite literally flatten most of the campus within a few moments. When I heard about this tragedy in the news, I immediately perked up because I went to high school and college in west Tennessee where this happened.
Jackson is a growing city about 120 miles northeast of Memphis and 180 miles southwest of Nashville, but I knew all about Jackson very well from my teenage years. When we wanted to see a movie or just hang out, Jackson was the place to go. I graduated high school from a smaller town called Bolivar, Tennessee about 25 miles south of Jackson and often drove to and through Jackson to get to all points north of my hometown.
In fact, Christine and I traveled through Jackson in December when we went to visit my dad and family for Christmas. I commented to my wife how much the town had changed and grown since I lived there and it was good to see Jackson thriving so well. So imagine my shock when I heard about the tornado that ripped through that familiar city.
Making it hit closer to home was the fact that Union University was hit the hardest. I was very familiar with Union and even considered going there for my undergraduate studies before deciding on attending the University of Tennessee at Martin just 100 miles north of Jackson. But on my trips from Bolivar to Martin and back, I can vividly remember driving right by Union University on my trips. I even befriended several of the students there in the early 1990s when I was a member of the Baptist Student Union at Martin. We'd have regional meetings and occasionally met at Union for get-togethers and events.
The devastation was severe as rescuers worked all night
Although it isn't a large university, Union has always been highly-respected for turning out students equipped with a Christ-centered education with Biblical leadership principles and teachings that would impact the world for Jesus Christ. It was and is the purpose of that little campus in Jackson, Tennessee which makes this that much more difficult to hear about. But to their credit, Union has responded with a strong faith and hope that God had a purpose and a plan for this.
The grace of God covered the students and faculty on the Union University campus when the tornadoes hit because of the 1200 people there at the time, only 51 were injured and there were no fatalities. That is utterly amazing considering the significant damage that was done. In case you haven't seen the photos from this disaster, I found an awesome YouTube video that shows the devastation with an inspiring song from Casting Crowns called "Praise You In This Storm" that should remind everyone of Who is ultimately in control of tornadoes and the storms of life:
In all, of the 42 buildings on campus there was major damage to 19 buildings, minor damage to 12 buildings, and no damage to 11 buildings. And again, amazingly nobody died from this which is a testimony to God's providential and protective Hand over this body of believers who trusted Him in their time of need. I thank the Lord for sparing the lives of these students and proving to them that they are in His care during this developing time in their lives spiritually.
Union University President David S. Dockery
Believe it or not, classes are expected to resume back again starting next Wednesday, February 20, 2008, including the first campus event featuring the men's and women's basketball teams playing crosstown rival Freed-Hardeman University. Union University President David S. Dockery is thrilled to see the resilience of the students and their willingness to finish up this Spring semester despite this unexpected chain of events.
"It is absolutely amazing to think that we will be able to start classes within two weeks of this devastating story," Dockery said. "We are so excited about seeing our students return to class. I can't say enough about our faculty and staff and the amazing work they have done to enable us to be ready to move forward with the spring semester schedule."
Now the major rebuilding has begun and efforts are underway to help this campus return to some semblance of normalcy in the coming weeks. A special Union University Recovery blog has been set up to help students stay informed about what is happening with the campus since the server for the official Union University web site was destroyed by the tornadoes. Additionally, if you would like to make a donation to the Union University Disaster Relief Fund, then please give generously by clicking here.
May God continue to watch over and bless the students, faculty, and all those impacted by the storm of February 2008 at Union University and in Jackson, Tennessee.