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Spirits remain high in tornado aftermath

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Downed trees in front of USM's campus. Downed trees in front of USM's campus.
HATTIESBURG, MS (WLOX) -

The University of Southern Mississippi's Golden Eagle spirit lives strong in students and Hattiesburg residents despite a powerful tornado that ripped through the city on Sunday around 5 p.m.

Several buildings at USM's Hattiesburg campus are among the many damaged in Hattiesburg.

Latifah Lowe is a proud USM student and Hattiesburg native. She said USM has always had a great spirit and students have a way of helping each other out in times of need.

But, even with that school spirit, Lowe is still in disbelief at the state of the campus and the city.

"It feels like a nightmare. I'm waiting to wake up," Lowe said. "Houses demolished. I couldn't believe it. This place is demolished. There is a music department and you can see straight through. It looks like someone put a hole through it. It's incredible. Keep Hattiesburg in your prayers."

Haley McMinn also has a big heart for USM.

"It's tough seeing the destructions. Especially to one building [Ogletree Alumni Building] in particular that's been around for more than 100 years," McMinn said.

She said, Ogletree was the historic home of the president.

"Our interim president, we just had Dr. Aubrey Lucas, when he was president he lived in that home," McMinn added.

She said there's an emotional attachment tied to the alumni building.

"For a lot of people it is heartbreaking," McMinn explained. "The community is strong and we will come back strong."

While it's the destruction is a big loss, the Director of Housing Scott Blackwell said there is something to be thankful for.

"Looking at the Ogletree House, that's pretty awful and that's offices. So fortunately there weren't students sleeping in there last night and no one was injured," Blackwell said.

Blackwell estimates there were about 2,000 students on campus Sunday evening. Several of those students are staying in two residence halls right behind Ogletree House. Luckily the dorms only received minor damage.

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