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Community thrives among tragedy in Hattiesburg

For the second time in five years, a devastating tornado has left a trail of destruction across Hattiesburg.

And for the second time in five years, the community spirit of the Hub City has grown even stronger in the face of tragedy.

Around 4am on Saturday morning, an EF-3 tornado touched down with a 33 mile track. Being a half of a mile wide, it swept homes down to the slab, snapped trees like toothpicks, and shredded metal and insulation like confetti. When the sun came up, residents of Hattiesburg and Petal found what was left: nothing but debris where their homes once stood.

William Carey University took a direct hit from the tornado.

“There’s not one building that’s not damaged,” said Dick Vogel with William Carey.

Right now, the university is closed.

Students have been completely displaced with many of the dorms destroyed. Vogel said many students lost all of their possessions, but that is where the community has stepped up.

“We’ve had so many items donated from the area churches, from the people, to help the students because we’ve relocated them,” said Vogel, “we don’t have any room for those items.”

Vogel said well over 100 students suffered some sort of loss, but textbooks and computers were among the most expensive items lost.

“Right now, we need money to cover those items,” said Vogel.

In the spirit of community, the University of Southern Mississippi, also located in Hattiesburg, has offered their facilities to William Carey.

“It’s been incredible, without them, I don’t know what we would have done,” said Vogel. “They’re housing our students, they’re feeding our students.”

Southern Miss is also helping William Carey medical students by assisting in putting together anatomy labs so the hands-on training can continue.

This will help greatly, said Vogel, as many of the classes will be shifted.

“We’re doing all we can to offer every single academic class online,” said Vogel. “We’re on the trimester system.. we can’t just shut down, the students would lose a whole semester or more.”

There are two funds that you can donate to in order to help the university.

The Student Tornado Relief Fund will be evenly distributed among students who file claims to help get re-established after the storm.

The Tornado Damage Fund is strictly to help with operational costs until recovery is completed.

“We’re going to try to keep on going,” said Vogel. “We can’t just shut down.”

To help William Carey or surrounding areas, CLICK HERE for more information.

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