Student: 'I'll never forget' tornado aftermath at college


By Cathy Farmer
United Methodist News Service

JACKSON, Tenn. — Buried for three hours under tons of rubble left by an F-4 tornado, Jordan Thompson found new brothers and a deeper belief in God.

“I’d have given up, 100 percent given up, without my faith,” said Thompson, a member of Germantown (Tenn.) United Methodist Church, of his entrapment after a twister leveled his two-story dormitory at Union University in Jackson.

The 20-year-old sophomore had sought refuge on his dorm’s bottom floor, along with six other male students, as a storm system roared through Jackson on Feb. 5. When a tornado bounced across the 1,100-student campus, it destroyed much of Union’s student housing, including Adams Hall where Thompson lived.

Only seconds after Thompson and his classmates took shelter, the ceiling and walls came crashing down. The young men were trapped underneath the wreckage, scarcely able to breathe.

“I couldn’t move,” Thompson recalled. “I could pick my head up maybe two to three inches. My legs were tucked up under me and I was face down.” He remained in that position for three hours until rescuers pulled him through a hole in the rubble.

During those three hours, Thompson and the other young men forged a bond. “I’ll never forget what we said to each other while we were under there,” he said. “We’re brothers now.”

They prayed for each other and recited Scripture while waiting for rescue. “There’s no way not to see God’s hand on us,” he said quietly. “We’re all alive ... and that makes no sense without God in the picture.

“I won’t say we didn’t falter at all, but I was never mad at God or asking why He had put me there. I knew I was there to help the other guys. If we had been alone, I don’t think any of us would have gotten out. Sometimes one of us would say, ‘I’m slipping, I’m going!’ but God gave us the strength to help by talking to them.”

The students yelled for help as they were able, but the pressure of the rubble made it impossible for some of them to speak. Thompson was able to hold onto the hand of one of the more severely injured students, Jason Kaspar. “He was having trouble breathing, crushed by stuff, and from the dust and insulation in the air,” Thompson said. “I told him to squeeze my hand once in a while so I’d know he was OK.”

Amazingly, Thompson walked away with only cuts and bruises. Three others have been released from the hospital and the last three – Kaspar, Matt Kelley and David Wilson – continue to be in serious condition.