HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - William Carey dorms were destroyed in Saturday's deadly tornado, and student resident assistants were in charge of keeping other students in those residence halls safe.
"It was just so crazy because everything hit so fast, especially in Bass," said Ava Calvert, a resident assistant in Bass Hall and a junior at William Carey. "The fire doors were open on the side, and wind was just going crazy. It was so hard for me to breathe and stand. I was knocking on (the) residence hall's doors, and people weren't coming out. People weren't responding. So it was so nerve-racking and so scary. I mean, I didn't know really what to do, so I got a couple of people out of their rooms. By the time I got downstairs, one of my residents, Taylor, a soccer player, lost three of her fingers, and she was yelling and screaming, and it was just so, so terrifying. So traumatizing. 'My fingers! My hand!' It was just a puddle of blood. We were looking for fingers. It was just so crazy."
Branden Lindsay, a resident assistant in Futral Hall and also a junior, said scary scenes happened across campus.
"Our resident director went out just to check to see if everything was OK, and no less than 5 to 10 seconds later, the tornado was hitting," Lindsay said. "He's grabbing the door, trying to make sure that he comes back inside. We're like nervous, about to go grab him, and all you see is just a bunch of guys grabbing onto each other praying. Praying to God asking him to please watch over us and cover us through all things because we, in that moment, you feel like your life is about to go. You really don't know what's going to happen, what's going on."
But during the tornado, the college juniors had to work through their own fear to protect others.
"I'm like, OK, I'm just like y'all," Lindsay said. "I'm panicking. I'm nervous. For you to be a resident assistant, for both of us to be a resident assistant, we signed on the job to say, 'we're here to protect our residents, no matter what,' and so you're like our children. We're going to make sure that you're OK."
Calvert said, "They're all crying, and as much as you want to cry in that moment, you can't because, I mean, you're the only people they have right now. They're depending on you. Even though I'm younger than some of the people in my dorm, they're depending on me in that moment, so we just have to hold it all together and just pray. That's basically all we did, and we asked everyone to pray with us. It just worked out the way it was. It was just a terrifying and phenomenal moment all at once just to see everyone pray and work together."
William Carey President Tommy King credits the housing staff's quick and efficient response for saving lives on Saturday.