A week ago, our mild winter erupted into an outbreak of damaging storms which lashed out across the Southeast. At LMU, two rounds of tornado warnings came down during the day on Friday, March 2, before the most damaging storms arrived around 8 p.m. Through it all, LMU’s main campus in Harrogate, Tenn., was spared damage. Reports from that night included just wind, light rain and a short burst of hail. Some of our historic trees lost a few limbs, but the University had seen worse.
Our neighbors just across Highway 25E did not fare as well. The initial reports on Friday described as many as 10 houses that were totally destroyed. Those same reports placed them all in the City of Harrogate in the area behind Ellen Myers Elementary School. And the reports were fairly accurate.
By the time the weather service confirmed that an EF2 tornado touched down in the area earlier this week, the clean-up effort was already well underway. Emergency responders rescued trapped residents and helped guide people around downed power lines immediately following the storms on Friday. In the light of day on Saturday, more volunteers joined the efforts as neighbors helped neighbors to assess the damage and start to clear the debris.
After a weekend full of reports from the storm damaged areas, the burning question on most people’s minds on Monday was, how could LMU help? The Student Services division was contacted by several students about going into the community and helping in any way possible. On Wednesday, a team of about 15 students, including most of the Lady Railsplitter volleyball team, and the entire Student Services staff assisted in clean-up efforts at two residences.
A camera crew from LMU-TV followed the LMU volunteers and filed this report.
On Thursday, the student services team was at it again, helping two more families clear debris around their homes.
I had the privilege of being a part of the clean-up yesterday. Seeing the destruction up close was remarkable. Even more remarkable, was the spirit of community that radiated out of this devastation. Sure, a few homeowners shared stories of people salvaging through debris and looking to take advantage of the people affected by the storms, but, the majority had also experienced complete strangers coming up and assisting in the clean-up.
LMU is about service. The University believes that one of the major cornerstones of meaningful existence is service to humanity. Our students routinely volunteer in their communities. What is so impressive about this service, is that it was a grassroots effort initiated by students. The students went to administration looking for a way to help. The Student Services division, inspired by the students’ request went to President B. James Dawson and asked for permission not only to take the students over to help, but to volunteer as well. The Student Services division went on to sacrifice two days to assist their neighbors and the work isn’t complete yet.
Student leaders and the administration have reached out to a number of the relief organizations working in the area, offering to recruit and organize teams of student volunteers as the recovery efforts turn to rebuilding.
Knoxville’s WBIR-TV also sent a reporter to cover the recovery efforts. A link to reporter Mary Scott’s story is below.