JACKSONVILLE, Ala.- One year ago, an EF-3 tornado tore through Jacksonville, causing millions of dollars in damage to the town and the university.
Thankfully, nobody was killed.
People on campus this week are sharing a message of resilience.
It’s a calm and cool evening in Jacksonville as people gather on campus. Nothing like the violent skies one year ago as a tornado blew through town.
“The smell of pine was overwhelming,” Sharon Padgett said, remembering the trees that were brought down all over town.
Padgett keeps a cross cut from a pine in her driveway.
“It’s a miracle. that’s the only way I can describe it,” Padgett said.
Her house was untouched by the storm that took down hundreds of trees, destroyed homes and damaged dozens of buildings on campus.
“When he came back they asked what kind of insurance he had and he said I have cheap insurance. And his house is still not touched,” Padgett said describing a neighbor’s home down the street.
Green tags on homes mean neighbors are repairing. The Alumni House is gone and the library roof will soon be replaced, but a tattered blue tarp and boarded up windows at the former wellness center is a reminder that there’s unfinished business in Jacksonville.
“This is the largest disaster to any state institution in the history of Alabama,” JSU president John Beehler said.
Beehler and neighbors agree Merrill Hall is a sad reminder of what was lost in the tornado. Beetler says he’s gone back and forth with the state for a year but the two parties couldn’t agree on a number. But he says the building is coming down and coming down soon.
“If they don`t respond to us, it’s going to get demolished on April 1st, I’m just going to go for it,” Beehler said.
President Beehler says they’ve already put about 40 new roofs on buildings and spring enrollment is up.
“We got knocked down and hit on the chin. But we’re coming back fast and we’ll be stronger and better than ever,” Beehler said.
Beehler says even once Merrill Hall is torn down, it could take about three years to build the new school of business and industry.
He says the campus also plans to have three new emergency shelters for people to use.