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Student security guard says life was spared from tornado

JACKSON, Tenn.Nov. 15, 2002 – A heart racing chase scene, falling objects, and a near death experience all sound like parts of an action adventure movie, but they were reality for Union junior Sasha Stojiljkovic when he survived a run-in with the tornado that hit the campus near midnight on Saturday.

Stojiljkovic, who was working the late shift for security and stationed at Union’s Welcome House located at the entrance on Walker Road, had become apathetic to the tornado sirens after nothing had come of the first two of the evening. When the entry gates by the guardhouse began to shake, he quickly looked over toward Jennings and saw a huge cloud of dust blowing his way.

Frantically, he called Mary Akin, the security officer on duty, on his radio who he could see was driving near Jennings. He and Akin drove rapidly toward McAffee Commons in search of shelter, narrowly missing a falling telephone pole and almost hitting parked cars and a fallen tree in the process. At one point, their vehicle was lifted briefly into the air.

“When I tried to open the door to get out of the truck, it felt like the wind literally pushed me out the door and that’s when the truck window shattered into a million pieces,” recalled Stojilikovic. The two stranded individuals ran to the Commons door but found it locked. After “pounding on the door like a maniac,” Dan Herr, Resident Director of McAfee, quickly unlocked it and ushered them inside.

Just as Herr was re-securing the door, the heavy wind pressure caused the glass door to explode in Herr’s face, leaving him slightly scratched but uninjured. Seconds after Stojiljkovic and Akin made it safely inside, the security vehicle they had been driving was bent and twisted by the storm.

“If it weren’t for Dan being there to open the door for me, I would probably be smashed up somewhere or blown away to Bancorp South or even Memphis by this time,” said Stojiljkovic. “It was luck I guess. I don’t know why I was spared, but I am happy to be alive. Here’s the three I can thank that I am alive – luck, God, and Dan.”

By Laura Lee Moore, Class of 2004

Related Resource(s): More Tornado Damage Coverage
Media contact: Sara B. Horn, news@uu.edu, 731-661-5215

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