Advertisement

WCU president reflects on 5th anniversary of deadly Hattiesburg tornado

Friday was the 5th anniversary of the deadly tornado that struck Hattiesburg and the surrounding area on Jan. 21, 2017.
Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 9:56 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Friday was the 5th anniversary of the deadly tornado that struck Hattiesburg and the surrounding area on Jan. 21, 2017.

Among the places hardest hit was William Carey University.

“Our first thought was that’s the end of William Carey, it was so devastating,” said Tommy King, president of William Carey University.

“I think 80 percent-plus of the buildings were destroyed or severely damaged and we didn’t really know where to start, but as daylight came along, we realized we didn’t have a choice, we had to rebuild,” King added.

The university did rebuild. Over the next two-and-a-half years, seven buildings were replaced and many others were repaired and renovated.

It was all done with insurance money and private donations.

“I kind of thought that if we let the word filter out to the Baptists in the state, that we had rejected all federal money, that they would come through and they did,” said King.

In July of 2019, the university dedicated the Tatum Court Administration Building, which officially brought an end to its tornado recovery efforts.

Since then, other new buildings have been added as the university continues to grow.

“The big lesson (from tornado recovery) is that you have to continue going forward, you can’t sit back and feel defeated and that’s what we did,” said King.

The 2017 tornado killed four people and injured more than 50 others. None were associated with William Carey University.

“The greatest thing is no loss of life,” said King.

“It’s just a miracle that no students or employees lost their life,” King added.

William Carey University now has more than 5,600 students on three campuses.

Copyright 2022 WDAM. All rights reserved.