JACKSONVILLE, Ala. -- Three weeks after an EF-3 tornado ripped through Jacksonville, leaders at the university welcomed students back to classes. Thankfully, nobody was killed in the storm.
Graduation is less than a month away, and many of the student housing buildings were so damaged, students had to look for other places to stay to finish out the year.
Many of them are opting to stay home until next fall.
“All of my roommates were gone for spring break,” JSU senior Caleb Howard said. “I was in the bathroom on the phone with my mom and girlfriend.”
Howard picked a good place to hide from last month`s tornado. "The whole building was shaking, it was loud like a train," Howard said.
The damage, catastrophic. Thankfully, it was spring break, and the JSU campus was sparsely populated and everybody present survived. After three weeks of limbo, students who returned are picking up where they left off.
"The building took a hit. So everybody`s outside practicing, since the band rooms aren`t usable right now," Howard said.
"You never think it's going to happen to you," JSU music major Joseph Garmany said.
JSU leaders gave the students three options. You could take the grade you had before the storm for your final grade, you could take an incomplete, or return to campus and finish out the year.
"If you choose not to finish out the semester, it can hinder how you fare in the future and getting your teaching certificate," Howard said.
Still, the campus looks more like a work zone than an institution of higher learning. Green trucks and blue tarps show the progress, as cleanup and rebuilding continues.
"It`s been amazing to see the university and the community come together. I really expect this last month to be something really special," Howard said.
Despite suffering severe damage to more than 20 buildings on campus, JSU leaders say graduation will go on as planned in the stadium on May 4th.
Jacksonville state's president says there are three buildings that will likely have to be torn down and replaced.
Students have until April 12th to decide if they plan to finish out the year and turn in their paperwork.