JACKSON, Tenn. – Feb. 13, 2008 – While most Union University students have returned to their respective homes until classes resume Feb. 20, faculty and staff have been working hard since Feb. 7 to recover belongings from damaged dormitories on campus.
The recovery effort began with teams of faculty and staff entering student apartments to save all types of belongings — from clothes to small refrigerators. Ben Dockery, director of campus ministries, said the bagging effort has run incredibly smoothly.
Union physics professor Bill Nettles said he knew of one instance in which a student saw a structural engineer crawling among the debris, and said, “You’re right next to my room. Could you go in my room and see if there is a purse sitting on the table?” The engineer went in the room and came out holding up the purse. The woman was overjoyed.
“The thing that has stood out to me most is that everyone has such a servant attitude – wanting to be here and help. Everyone just wants to serve,” Nettles said. “It sums up the idea of blessing.
“Part of the idea – the concept of the Greek word of blessing that Jesus uses in the Sermon on the Mount – is ‘fulfillment,’” Nettles continued. “That you will be fulfilled when you are poor in spirit; that you will be fulfilled when you seek the kingdom of heaven. And this is a real blessing to be able to come and serve like this.”
Faculty and staff have been charged with bagging students’ belongings and then transporting those items to designated areas. After the student items are separated into individual rooms, students are able to come to one of Union’s two gymnasiums and field house to claim their belongings.
“The reason things have gone so smoothly is because there are many people who have stepped up,” Dockery said. “(The teams) are extremely organized and detailed.”
Alumna Stacy Storey, campus ministries coordinator, helped recover students’ personal effects on Sunday among the destroyed dormitories. While she has not been surprised at the different types of belongings she has found, Storey said she was most shocked by the scene itself.
“I’ve found passports, notes, rings, a lot of jewelry, a lot of electronics, guitars,” Storey said. “I’m surprised by the randomness of what’s messed up and what’s not. For instance, I walked into one room and there was a book opened on a desk and a box of Triscuits right next to it, but the whole window right above it had been blown in. The stuff hadn’t even moved.
“Some things are completely gone and then other rooms look like (students) just left their desk – which they probably did. Seeing the damage, it has just been shocking.”
Dockery said the process of distributing students’ belongings also has been relatively simple and easy for everyone involved. Students receive a phone call from someone working on the recovery teams. Then students sign in at Luther Hall to receive a form to claim their belongings. Finally, they go to their designated area and their belongings are brought out to them.
While rummaging through the rooms, Nettles said he soon realized a major difference in what is found in a guy’s room verses a woman’s room.
“The women have their pictures on the wall and cards from their parents – things like that,” Nettles said. “The guys have stereos, guitar amplifiers and Xboxes. As a professor I’ve been tempted to throw all the Xboxes away, so they would concentrate on their studies. But that’s being unrealistic.”
By Claire Yates ('09)
Kimberly Wilkinson ('08) also contributed to this story.