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Concussion leaves Union student with no memory of devastating tornado

Junior Rose Rogers tries to remember moments from when the tornado devastated campus. Behind her is what remains of her dorm where she was located during the hit. Photo by Stephanie Schroeder
Junior Rose Rogers tries to remember moments from when the tornado devastated campus. Behind her is what remains of her dorm where she was located during the hit. Photo by Stephanie Schroeder

JACKSON, Tenn.Feb. 8, 2008 – The tornado that hit Union University on Feb. 5 affected the lives of about 1,200 students who live on campus, yet for one student, the event literally exists as a dream.

Rose Rogers, a junior art major from Nashville, Tenn., was sheltered during the storm. However, she remembers almost nothing from the evening. When the tornado destroyed the campus and her dorm room, she was struck on the head from flying debris.

“I don’t remember much from the night of the storm,” Rogers said. “Apparently, I was sent to the hospital with a concussion and only bits and pieces are coming back to me with time. The only things I remember are small flashes of debris such as a bus turned over beside the LifeWay bookstore and views from my bedroom window.”

Lily Zopfi, a junior art major from Chattanooga, Tenn., is a close friend of Rogers who remained alongside her during the incident and visit to the hospital.

“At first, I couldn’t remember anything from the prior month,” Rogers said. “I felt like I was walking through a dream, a nightmare almost. As (Lily) told the story, I pictured it yet I couldn’t imagine it being true. It made me scared and sad I was not able to remember this dramatic time in my life.”

As Zopfi described the events, she and Rogers were working in the art studio when the tornado sirens went off. They wanted to stay put, yet were urged by other students to rush back to Rogers’ dorm room. So, they set out across campus running to safety. When they reached Rogers’ apartment, they found it empty because her roommates had fled to a room across the walkway.

After experiencing many accounts of tornado warnings over their three years at Union, the students admitted they were annoyed. Rogers closed their living room blinds to hide from resident assistants, who were on security rounds to send women to their bathrooms for safety.

“According to Lily, we spread out on my bed and looked out the window to see when the storm would pass,” Rogers said. “As we watched our professor’s truck pull away from the art department, Lily said debris began flying toward us. We then fled to the bathroom while the windows broke and glass began flying everywhere.

“As we rounded the corner of the bathroom, the entire front wall of the dorm collapsed. Lily said I jumped at the bathtub but we were unable to shut the door before it went dark and the tornado hit.”

The girls were helped out through the gaping hole in their bathroom wall by Zopfi’s boyfriend who escorted them directly to a nurse located in a nearby building on campus.

According to Zopfi and other friends, Rogers was not lucid and continued to ask five questions continuously including: “What happened? Am I OK? Are you OK? Does my mom know I am OK? Is my mom OK?”

Arriving at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital, Rogers was given a CAT scan and soon received the information she had suffered a mild concussion. She had two “goose-egg sized bumps” on the side of her head, which remained swollen until the next day.

As Rogers began explaining the experience described by Zopfi, she stared into the distance trying to picture how it happened.

When Rogers later saw her room, she stood in awe at the damage on display. The entire bathroom was visible to the outside world and her safe haven no longer seemed to be so safe. As she viewed the remnants of her college life, she began to remember small things about the night, yet was still unable to believe she had experienced the disaster personally.

“It just feels like a dream,” Rogers said. “I still don’t remember enough to feel like it actually happened to me. After seeing everything and having this picture in my mind forever, I am so thankful. It hasn’t hit me yet but as for now, I am feeling so blessed and in awe of God and His work.”

By Stefie Glass ('08)

Media contact: Tim Ellsworth, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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