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Jacksonville State University hosts graduation after tornado

JACKSONVILLE, Ala.- Students at Jacksonville State University walked across the stage for graduation on Friday, less than two months after a tornado tore through campus.

The EF-3 tornado severely damaged 23 buildings on campus and impacted 50 more. Thankfully nobody was hurt.

"We have family in Jacksonville, so it hurt them as well as the campus," JSU graduate Anna Johnson said. "It's bittersweet for everybody."

A painful reminder on graduation day for hundreds of students.

"The apartment where I used to stay was completely wiped away," JSU graduate Sean Bickersteth said.

"I was in my apartment on the Reserve when it happened," JSU graduate Lane Morrow said. "Then I worked security at Game Cock Village. And we worked 24 hours for the first weeks after that."

Many JSU students were in limbo, wondering if there would be a campus to return to.

"We got about 80 percent of it up in about three or four days," ServPro construction manager Frank Williams said.

JSU leaders chose to salvage what they could and welcome back graduates who wanted to return and don their caps and gowns.

"I was able to see why my home was so great here, why this town was so amazing," Morrow said.

"It's sad to see the change from then until now. But it's also great to see how much they've rebuilt since then," Johnson said. "So I'm proud for Jacksonville, the community as well as Jacksonville State."

JSU leaders estimate the storm caused more than $40 million worth of damage to classrooms, living spaces and the coliseum. But many young people wearing red and black say this isn't goodbye.

"To be continued, I'm going to finish. I'm thinking about continuing here," JSU graduate Kandice Bryson said.

Aside from construction, summer classes start May 16. Students will return for the fall on August 21st.

This week, the band Alabama announced they will be performing a benefit concert on campus September 26th. The Charlie Daniels Band along with other bands will join Alabama to raise money for the university.