It was 7:02 pm on February 5, 2008.
I was a high school junior and had already committed to Union University for the next fall. Eight years ago today, I watched in horror as the world came crashing down when a tornado ripped through the heart of one of Union’s main residential complexes.
God remained faithful and kept His hand of protection on every single life in a disaster that, by every human calculation, should have claimed lives.
I had just been accepted to Union and I remember watching the weather and being obsessed with the online updates as they rebuilt campus in record time. I was overcome with sadness of the sights and stories, but also with a deep sense of pride in a school that made the international news stage because of its dedication to proclaiming the Gospel in the midst of such a crisis. The tornado confirmed I had made the right choice and I was at Union the next year.
Eight years later, the tornado is just a legend to the students on campus. I have heard questions about why there are tornado shelters and few know that Barefoots Joe was born out of the tornado. I pray they never experience the heartache those students did on February 5, 2008. Simultaneously, I feel blessed to have been at Union with many of the students who lived through that night and to have been given the opportunity to hear their stories and know their hearts.
The tornado at Union eight years ago was catastrophic and it was dubbed a modern day miracle because, even though there were 13 trapped in the rubble and 51 taken to the hospital, nobody suffered critical injuries. In the months and even years after the strike, we all remembered well. On this day every year, we remember God’s faithfulness.
God got all the honor and glory for a safe night and a rebuilt campus.
Union’s campus has been rebuilt better and stronger than ever.
Students were interviewed by media outlets across the world and they all praised God in the storm. Many even used their platform as an opportunity to share the Gospel.
Union gained exposure and grew with record-breaking enrollment numbers for the next several years.
Tens of millions of dollars in donations flooded in for years.
Somewhere along the way, I became desensitized. I have taken His faithfulness for granted. I have forgotten to thank God for keeping thousands of students safe that day. I have forgotten how very real it all was that day.
I always remember on the anniversary, of course. I share and post via social media. I talk about it. I offer thanks to a God who loves us so.
But I want this year to be different. I want to remember His love for us on that day and every single day. When it seems a F4 tornado has hit my life, and all I can see is rubble for miles, I want to remember that God’s promises are always new.
I am often reminded of one dad’s comments just days after the tornado put his son in the hospital. David Wilson was one of the primary spokesmen for God and His grace in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Mark Wilson, father of David Wilson, said that despite terrible circumstances, there is much for which to be grateful.
“What I’ve learned I’ve known for years – that first God’s mercies are new every morning,” Wilson said. “Thursday was a really bad day for us. I heard some things that really scared me. I used all those mercies and they were just enough to get me through the day.
“But (Friday) morning he refilled my bank account. It’s not a credit account where you can take extra, but every morning he fills what you need for the day.”
Every day is a new day. God gives us just what we need to get through today. Tomorrow has enough worries of its own.