published: Wednesday, February 13, 2013
'News-Sun' reporter's family safe after F-4 tornado hits
By SAMANTHA GHOLAR
The photos looked unmistakably familiar, some even worse, as I scrolled through Facebook posts and frantic updates Sunday afternoon. I immediately called my son's father and got only a busy signal. I continued scrolling through images of debris flying around, broken trees and dark, threatening clouds when I stopped cold at a photo of the University of Southern Mississippi's campus, my alma mater.
The famous Ogletree Alumni House, a place where so much tailgate action had taken place, so many early morning strolls and so many late afternoon rest stops happened.
The F-4 tornado had shredded a path through my hometown Sunday, Feb. 10 around 6 p.m. (CST). I vaguely remember seeing a tornado once, off in the distance, when I was only in third grade, but videos of this monster flew up on the social media network just as fast at the 170 mph winds themselves.
I called my older sister Terri to make sure my family was OK. They live just a few miles east of Hattiesburg in Petal, which also suffered significant damage. Luckily, my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, niece and nephews had all survived yet another weather catastrophe.
My family has been lucky... several times. Following the Storm in 2005 (Hurricane Katrina) our home suffered some damage but we haven't had to feel the loss of everything we know and own like other family members and so many of my friends.
A hurricane is much different than a tornado. It is easier to predict and you have time to prepare; tornadoes come and rip things apart in a matter of minutes. This one was no different.
Two of my rival high schools were severely damaged. Both ironically suffered major damages to their baseball fields, stadiums and field houses. Baseball is a way of life for boys growing up back home, not just there but everywhere, Sebring included. Now nothing stands for them to practice on, to share their love of the sport with friends and families and only a few weeks before the season's kick off.
College students and musicians have lost a huge part of their life with Southern Miss's School of Music being no more. The building took a direct hit from the tornado, leaving absolutely nothing but scraps left. These students are without classrooms, performance studios, instruments now and will be for some time.
Historic streets in the heart of Hattiesburg are filled with bricks, trees, downed power lines, and siding. Businesses and homes are gone. Mt. Carmel Baptist and Westminster Presbyterian, churches that have stood for decades through some of the harshest hurricanes and storms in history, are now reduced to a pile of ruble. The local Red Cross facility was unlucky and was completely destroyed.
Through another devastation, comparable to the still too vivid Katrina and the storm of last year that wiped out much of the Gulf Coast, Mississippians are still trying to rebuild and move forward. The continued perseverance, diligence, and immense amount of pride my fellow Mississippians have is breathtaking. I have never seen such comradery and bravery in people who have been beat down and belittled for so long.
A total of 300 homes and businesses have been reported destroyed; 81 injuries, no deaths. I pray for the continued peace of those who have lost their homes and their businesses, and I am so grateful that not one single life was lost this weekend. Had it not been for the lack of students on campus due to the University's Mardi Gras holiday this week, that death toll would have been far worse.
I commend my friends and strangers for their efforts with clean up around my city. The local small businesses that are giving out hot food, coffee, electricity and Internet service to those in need, including clean up crews and electricity workers, are to be applauded. The local high school students starting donations for their rival high schools in their time of need is amazing. You all are heroes. Even though my body is 600 miles away, my heart and my thoughts are with you all. Push forward, rebuild, keep living. Continue to show the world the strength and beauty of the place so many of us are so proud to call home.
Anyone interested in donating items and funds for the residents, clean up volunteers and The University of Southern Mississippi relief efforts may drop off items here at News-Sun. Please do not donate clothes; the Red Cross is flooded with clothing items and the time it takes to sort and seperate those items takes away from clean up efforts. Items such as blankets, hand sanitizer, hygeine items, toothpaste, toothbrushes, sanitary items, baby items, diapers, etc. Canned food and non-pershable items, granola bars, protein bars, bottled water, etc. Visa gift cards, Walmart cards, and checks are also being accepted. Items will be shipped and hand delivered to local churches, The Salvation Army and American Red Cross. Hattiesburg's local Salvation Army can be reached by calling (601) 544-3684. Red Cross information can be found at www.mississippi-redcross.org, 1-800-733-2767 or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.
For more infomation about clean up, donations are disaster relief contact Samantha at the News-Sun by email at email@example.com.
glad they are alright Sam... (by: Ray Napper - 2/13/2013)
The most important thing in our lives next to God is family.
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