William Carey University remembers and celebrates recovery from tornado

William Carey University remembers and celebrates recovery from tornado

HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) - One year ago, a tornado in Hattiesburg took lives and changed all the rest.

William Carey University was among the many buildings and homes destroyed during the storm.

"Lights just cut off. The building just shaking," said student Maurice Stephens of Gulfport. "I hear windows crashing, and breaking. It was just a really scary moment."

Nearly every building on the campus at William Carey University was damaged or destroyed.

"I woke up from a loud roaring noise," said student Marques McGee of Biloxi. "Then I looked out my window and I saw the tornado touch the ground. I looked up, and my whole window sill was snatched off."

Student Lindsay Knight was devastated.

"It's absolutely an experience that unless you experience it yourself, you can't describe it," she said. "It's one of the scariest moments of your life."

Now, signs of progress are all around. Renovations have been made to the buildings that survived, along with the construction of new ones.

Stephens and McGee, who play basketball for the university, are particularly proud of the new gymnasium.

"We've got a brand new gym," Stephens said. "You can see other dorms being built for people. They're actually making the campus look great right now."

On Sunday night, the university had a service to remember and to celebrate. Music provided the background for inspiration.

Students and administrators had a chance to tell their stories, including Knight.

"Whenever I saw campus for the first time when the sun came up that morning, I thought we'd never come back," she said.

"We're back in classes, we're going to graduate on time," Knight added. "It's incredible."

There's more to it than physical renewal.

"The Carey family is stronger than it has ever been before," said Dr. Scott Hummel, executive vice president and provost. "Our faith is more deeply rooted than ever before. Our determination and mission is clearer than ever before. This recovery, the non-physical part of the recovery, has been just as miraculous."

Hummel said that a year from now, possibly even sooner, construction of the new buildings, including dormitories and academic centers, should be complete.

Copyright 2018 WLOX. All rights reserved.