|College student: ‘I’ll never forget’ tornado aftermath|
Union University sophomore Jordan Thompson is
interviewed by a reporter the day after an F-4 tornado destroyed his
dorm on the campus in Jackson, Tenn., burying Thompson for three hours
in the rubble. UMNS photos by Sherry Thompson.
By Cathy Farmer*
Feb. 14, 2008 | JACKSON, Tenn. (UMNS)
Much of Union's student housing was damaged or destroyed by the Feb. 5 twister, displacing hundreds of students.
Buried for three hours under tons of rubble left by an F-4 tornado,
Jordan Thompson found new brothers and a deeper belief in God.
"I’d have given up, 100 percent given up, without my faith," said
Thompson, a member of Germantown (Tenn.) United Methodist Church, of his
entrapment after a twister leveled his two-story dormitory at Union
University in Jackson.
The 20-year-old sophomore had sought refuge on his dorm's bottom
floor, along with six other male students, as a storm system roared
through Jackson on Feb. 5. When a tornado bounced across the
1,100-student campus, it destroyed much of Union's student housing,
including Adams Hall where Thompson lived.
Only seconds after Thompson and his classmates took shelter, the
ceiling and walls came crashing down. The young men were trapped
underneath the wreckage, scarcely able to breathe.
"I couldn’t move," Thompson recalled. "I could pick my head up maybe
two to three inches. My legs were tucked up under me and I was face
down." He remained in that position for three hours until rescuers
pulled him through a small hole in the rubble.
During those three hours, Thompson and the other young men forged a
bond. "I’ll never forget what we said to each other while we were under
there," he said. "We’re brothers now."
Waiting for rescue
They prayed for each other and recited Scripture while waiting for rescue. "There’s no way not to see God’s hand on us," he said quietly. "We’re all alive ... and that makes no sense without God in the picture.
"I’ll never forget what we said to each other while we were under there. We’re brothers now." –Jordan Thompson
"I won’t say we didn’t falter at all, but I was never mad at God or
asking why He had put me there. I knew I was there to help the
other guys. If we had been alone, I don’t think any of us would have
gotten out. Sometimes one of us would say, 'I’m slipping, I’m going!'
but God gave us the strength to help by talking to them."
The students yelled for help as they were able, but the pressure of
the rubble made it impossible for some of them to speak. Thompson was
able to hold onto the hand of one of the more severely injured students,
Jason Kaspar. "He was having trouble breathing, crushed by stuff, and
from the dust and insulation in the air," Thompson said. "I told him to
squeeze my hand once in a while so I’d know he was OK."
Though he could not call anyone, Thompson managed to free his cell
phone and flip it open to use the light to see Kaspar's face. "I kept
checking; I was afraid he was gone," recalled Thompson.
More than 1½ hours after the tornado hit, the students' pleas for
help were heard and rescuers began digging through the crumpled
building. Amazingly, Thompson walked away with only cuts and bruises.
Three others have been released from the hospital and the last
three––Kaspar, Matt Kelley and David Wilson––continue to be in serious
"One may be in the hospital for two months. Several have been on
dialysis. They’re not 100 percent out of the woods yet, but the doctors
say they should make a full recovery," said Thompson.
Thompson spoke with United Methodist News Service by telephone from his
home in Collierville, a town just outside of Memphis, following his
rescue. He and his family keep daily contact with the other students who
Thompson's car is one of hundreds tossed about by the storm on the West Tennessee campus of 1,100 students.
"What we said to each other during those hours, it’s emotional. I’ll
never forget it. We’re brothers now. And I’ll never be the same. I’ve
seen the love God has for His children."
Classes to resume
A private school affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention,
Union closed its campus to begin a massive cleanup. School officials
announced Feb. 13 that classes will resume Feb. 20 as displaced students
secure housing elsewhere. The university will hold a school-wide
worship service Feb. 19 in G.M. Savage Chapel.
Thompson, who plays on the men's soccer team at Union, plans to
return and wants to be a part of the Union family even more now, said
his father. "He already has gotten his new room assignment and
definitely will be back," said Dave Thompson. "I think he has a bond
that has truly changed him."
Like other parents, the elder Thompson is both amazed and grateful
that Union was spared of any fatalities. About 50 students were
hospitalized and hundreds displaced. "When you think that there were
1,100 students on that campus, you can only say that it was the grace of
God that no one was killed. It was a miracle," he said.
*Farmer is director of communications for the Memphis Annual (regional) Conference of The United Methodist Church.
News media contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pastor, family killed in crash following storms
United Methodists respond to storms
Tennessee college ravaged by storms
Germantown United Methodist Church
Memphis Annual Conference