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Walking After the Wind: A View of Jackson on May 5

JACKSON, Tenn.May 6, 2003On Monday, May 5, Union’s director of visual communication Jim Veneman and I, along with theatre professor David Burke and his son William toured downtown Jackson by car and on foot to see what damage the previous night’s tornado had done. What follows is an account of my initial impressions of what had happened to our city. --Chris Allen, Director of News and Media Relations

The broken power poles on East College Street form an “X” over the blacktop. You won’t find this symbol in any driver’s manual, but the message is clear: Road Closed. As we wind our way through the streets of downtown Jackson on May 5, the day after an F-4 tornado, that message is repeated by downed trees, downed power lines and overturned vehicles.

On every street, sidewalk and storefront there are scattered chunks of tar, shingles, glass and wood. It is as if every downtown roof was folded inside out and put through an enormous wood chipper, spraying the pieces over a dozen city blocks. What yesterday was a drainage gutter for one of these buildings now resembles bad modern art, loosely wrapped around the base of a lamppost.

At New Beginnings Fellowship on East Lafayette Street, there is a chain-link gate embedded in the stucco wall. We will never know where it once belonged. A few blocks away at the Jackson Prayer Center, the faithful sweep glass from the floor. These two were blessed.

St. Luke’s Episcopal and Mother Liberty CME were not. The leftovers of these historic structures look eerily similar; just the skeleton of each remains, and the surrounding area is littered with bricks. The church bus at Mother Liberty is lying on its side in the corner of the parking lot next to the trash dumpster, clearly little more than trash itself now.

Unity Park, a memorial to the victims of the tornado which ripped through Jackson in 1999, was not immune. One of the 2500 pound concrete spheres representing the touch down points of that twister was blown across Chester Street by this tornado. It took three young men to roll it back to the park.

Behind the New Southern Senior Center on East Baltimore cars are stacked three high in the parking lot. Some of these vehicles still have windows intact, but the building does not. I am reminded how poorly I understand physics.

Nearby, two men and a dog sit on the sidewalk guarding the merchandise of a pawn shop which is now without windows or power. I remark, “It is, after all, just stuff. Unless, of course, it’s your stuff.”

As we proceed, we encounter a pair of Union students. Then another pair. Then another. They have already been serving and are looking for ways to continue to serve. Classes have been canceled, and they could be sleeping, playing or just wasting time. It is, after all, just time. Unless, of course, it’s God’s time.

Minutes later, they are working to help salvage as much of St. Luke’s as possible. Less than twenty-four hours after this tragedy, the ecumenicity of need has energized the members of Christ. We are one body.

I am reminded of John 9 and Jesus’ words to his disciples regarding the man born blind, “…this happened so that the work of God might be displayed…”

May the work of God continue to be displayed.


Related Resource(s): May 2003 Tornado Photo Gallery

 

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5/6/03 - Juniors Jonathan Miller and Melinda Eckley survey the recent damage to homes, vehicles, and land in the downtown Jackson area.
5/6/03 - Juniors Jonathan Miller and Melinda Eckley survey the recent damage to homes, vehicles, and land in the downtown Jackson area. - Justin Veneman
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5/6/03 - Mother Liberty CME Church was destroyed in the May 2003 tornados that trampled through South Jackson and Madison County.
5/6/03 - Mother Liberty CME Church was destroyed in the May 2003 tornados that trampled through South Jackson and Madison County. - Justin Veneman
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5/5/03 - Union theatre professor David Burke assesses the damage incurred to the roof of the Carl Perkins Civic Center, site of the upcoming 2003 Scholarship Banquet with Benjamin Netanyahu.
5/5/03 - Union theatre professor David Burke assesses the damage incurred to the roof of the Carl Perkins Civic Center, site of the upcoming 2003 Scholarship Banquet with Benjamin Netanyahu. - Jim Veneman
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5/5/03 - Union theatre professor and New Beginnings Fellowship elder David Burke tries to work loose a chainlink gate which was hurled into the church's exterior wall by the winds of the tornado.
5/5/03 - Union theatre professor and New Beginnings Fellowship elder David Burke tries to work loose a chainlink gate which was hurled into the church's exterior wall by the winds of the tornado. - Jim Veneman
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5/5/03 - Jeremy Scott, a senior from Memphis, TN speaks with Nashville's News Channel 5, WTVF.  He and other Union students helped with clean up at Unity Park, a memorial to the victims of Jackson's 1999 tornado.
5/5/03 - Jeremy Scott, a senior from Memphis, TN speaks with Nashville's News Channel 5, WTVF. He and other Union students helped with clean up at Unity Park, a memorial to the victims of Jackson's 1999 tornado. - Jim Veneman
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5/5/03 - Jonathan Blair, a sophomore from Clinton, MS, helps salvage bricks from St. Luke's Episcopal Church in downtown Jackson.  The church was one of several buildings in the downtown area which were almost completely destroyed.
5/5/03 - Jonathan Blair, a sophomore from Clinton, MS, helps salvage bricks from St. Luke's Episcopal Church in downtown Jackson. The church was one of several buildings in the downtown area which were almost completely destroyed. - Jim Veneman

Media contact: Chris Allen, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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