Grace Seminary alumnus David Dockery, who is president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, is overseeing recovery efforts from tornadoes that hit the school earlier this week. The following is excerpted from a release by the Baptist News Service:
JACKSON, Tenn. (BP)–Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen toured the tornado-ravaged Union University campus Feb. 7, as the long process of cleaning up debris and rebuilding the campus begins.
“We’re going to be here,” Chertoff said, “to stand shoulder to shoulder with the governor and help you get cleaned up and get back to school…. We’re really glad you’re alive and we’re looking forward to coming back to the campus when it is spic and span and rebuilt.”
Chertoff took note of the university’s preparedness plans, stating, “It’s impressive the fact that the administration of this school and the students were able to get prepared. They really saved a lot of lives.” Buildings, he said, can be replaced; “we can’t replace lost lives.
Tennessee National Guard troops patrolled the Jackson campus the night of Feb. 6 to secure student residences and academic buildings. When the sun came up Thursday morning, they turned their attention to helping students recover their belongings from housing units that weren’t totally destroyed.
“Tennessee Guard members will be working with Union security to retrieve undamaged personal goods from various residence life rooms,” said Union President David Dockery. “Our efforts also will focus on helping students remove their vehicles from the campus.”
The cleanup operation will begin in earnest on Friday, Dockery said.
Bredeson and Chertoff visited the campus as part of a swing through the region to assess damage caused by dozens of tornadoes that raked Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and Alabama Feb. 5, killing at least 54 people and injuring hundreds.
President George Bush is scheduled to visit the area on Friday.
Initial estimates place the damage to the university at $40 million or more, but the loss goes beyond just destroyed and battered buildings, with Dockery noting that “the damage to student possessions and belongings has been equally severe.”
Union has established a relief fund for people wanting to help with the recovery. Donations can be sent to “Union University Disaster Relief Fund” at 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN 38305. The university also is suggesting that those who want to help students consider providing gift cards that can be used in stores like Wal-Mart, Target, Lowe’s or Home Depot.
As of Feb. 6, Union staff had recorded 86 storm-related injuries, 51 hospitalizations, and seven people admitted to intensive care at a local hospital, said Greg Thornbury, dean of Union’s School of Christian Studies. By day’s end, three remained in the hospital.
The school has enough volunteers already scheduled to help with the campus cleanup efforts Friday and Saturday, according to the university’s www.uuemergency.com website.