Written by Lauren Buser. Media by Ben Isaacs.
On February 28th, tornadoes ripped through our mid-western area. The devastation was tragic. Greenville College students speak up about how hard it was being away from their families and community in this time of need.
“My mom called me earlier that day and was concerned that we would be getting severe weather up here in Greenville,” explains Kalynn Pierce, a GC student. She lives about two hours from the college, in the small town of Royalton, IL. Being away from home, her mother kept her posted on weather conditions, and later that evening her mom let her know there were sirens going off back home. “I started to get a little more worried and checked the radar for back home. Sure enough, there was a huge red/pink cell heading straight for my town.” Thankfully, as Kalynn watched, the cell dissipated for the most part and her town was spared. It wasn’t until later, however, that she realized how close it had gotten to home. “I found out that a couple of houses about two miles north of mine were completely destroyed. One of them was built by the homeowner and since he paid it off as he built it, he wasn’t insured. He lost everything,” states Kalynn. Being away with all this happening to family and friends is worrisome and Kalynn experienced this first hand. She feels very blessed to have her family and their home safe but she hurts for those who were affected by it.
Being away during a time when your community needs you is one of the hardest things. Another student, Joseph Jeralds from Ava, Illinois, was stuck at college for a few weeks unable to get home to see the damage or help out. “By the time I got home, it was mostly cleaned up,” he began, “But it was weird because, that day, everything was fine in Greenville, and I get calls from family and friends telling me they were okay. But I hadn’t even known a tornado went through there.” The town of Ava, Illinois, was where an F4 tornado had begun to touch down. It tore through Joseph’s hometown and continued to Vergennes, where homes and barns were leveled.
Annie Claire Bastien, an education major at GC, has lived in the tiny area of Vergennes and Elkville, Illinois for her entire life. Homes from the west, east, and north of hers were destroyed. Annie’s father has built and owned Powerade Ballpark for many years now. Growing up, Annie Claire and her friends would help pull weeds, work concessions and watch baseball games. But, a different kind of help had ensued when Annie Claire arrived home that weekend. The ballpark was in shambles and picking up all the pieces was all anyone could do.
Graduate Marissa Erwin went through the same storm and experienced a different tornado. She was working in St. Louis when she checked her phone, her fears abruptly rose. Her mother had sent her tons of messages making sure she knew they were okay. “Facebook was covered in photos of the highway and the accidents the tornado caused,” Marissa explains. “I couldn’t put the phone down, and that night I couldn’t sleep when the second storm rolled through.” Sadly, she woke up the next morning to the news that her 24 year old neighbor, whom her and her brother grew up with, was killed. “I don’t think anyone could come up with a bad thing to say about him. It’s such a tragedy so prayers would be greatly appreciated for anyone who was close to Travis and the family.”
A true vision of community is shown in times like these. Natural disasters are hard enough when you are in the middle of them. Some of these students had to get home to see destruction and devastation in the places they’ve grown up, and then have to come back to college the next week to wonder where cleanup progress will be the next weekend. Prayer is needed for these communities. While they are healing and all feel blessed, it is a difficult process to get back on your feet when you don’t have anything but the clothes on your back and the shoes on your feet.