Wiggins residents awoke to a nightmare scene on Friday morning. An overnight tornado had left their beloved train depot in shambles.
"Very historic and very time period for the early 1900s when we were a log and timber community," said former mayor Russell Hatten. "I can't tell you how my heart dropped when I turned the corner. When they called me, I knew it had some damage, but I had no idea it would be like this."
A centerpiece of Wiggins, the depot often hosted meetings, receptions, and city functions. Hatten says his heartbreak is remembering how, years ago, the community stepped up after the city got a grant to restore the building.
"While we got a substantial amount of money to move and restore and upgrade the facility, we didn't have nearly enough," said Hatten. "The people of Wiggins, Stone County and this community donated their time, energy, efforts and their money to make the match for the depot to come to pass. There's a lot of people involved in it. So we're really sad that they put so much time into it and now the facility is destroyed."
Inside the damaged train depot, workers raced against time to save memories. Charles Sullivan, an archivist for the community college, hurried to the scene to save prints.
"That's the depot in 1904, and so we want to make sure the prints are saved. We want to make sure the building is saved, but it looks like we're having a little problem right now. But we will do all we have to do," he said.
The heartbreak is compounded by the fact the city just finished fixing the damage from Hurricane Katrina. Still, Mayor Jerry Alexander says there will be a future for this icon of the past.
"Just let the citizens of Wiggins know that that building will be replaced," said Mayor Alexander. "Don't know when. Don't know how, but we're not going to say, 'Oh, that's tough' and grin it off, and not have the depot back. It will be back."
Wiggins Fire Chief Jody Hatten says no one was injured in Friday morning's tornado.