(Pictured, top: One of the buildings after the destruction of the tornado. Pictured, second: The trees torn apart by the tornado as Caudill Hall rests in the background. Photos courtesy of Jennifer Easton and Holly Brown.)
By: The Editorial Staff
“I was finishing up a physics test when the storm hit.
“I printed the thing out and I was listening to the radio and they issued the tornado warning…there were a couple of guys weed eating in the courtyard and I went into the courtyard and told them about the warning and that they needed to find a building.
“A student of mine was walking down the library towards Warf so I told him he needed to get in the building.”
“There were only a dozen or so people in the building.”
“We looked out at one point and it was dead calm… so we opened the doors up one more time and the wind was just starting to pick up and within 45 seconds it was over.
“When it started hitting it sounded like a cross between a rush of wind and a train.”
“We were trying to hold the fire doors shut and it was like riding a bronco bull… we were pulling with all of our weight and it was still jerking us around.”
“Then we heard the metal latch break—it was a big pop—and we got under some tables and as soon as the door blew open the ceiling panels came crashing down.
“Then it was over, maybe 30 seconds or so.”
“When it stopped, I went outside, I’m not really sure why I went outside, maybe I was thinking about the two guys who were weed eating or whatever, and I saw what happened to Caudill and Ramer and I turned and saw the tornado heading down toward Gallatin.”
– Dr. Timothy Farris, Associate Professor of Physics
“First off, I was in my office watching the weather on the television and saw the weather reports that the tornado had just touched down in the Rivergate area.”
“Mr. Danny Gibbs was in my office watching all of this. We got on the phone with our building monitors and our vice presidents and told them to be prepared.”
“We watched a couple more minutes and as soon as they came across the television and said Sumner County is under a tornado warning we told all of our building monitors and went over the PA system.
“Everyone got to shelter. Personally, Miss Gibson and I went to the vault in the business office.
“Dr. Charles Lea, Beth Cooksey- all of us were huddled in that vault. We were probably not in there more than a couple of minutes when we heard the wind and everything start picking up.
“The vault door actually broke up, so we manhandled the vault door back closed and it wasn’t but a minute later that I guess it hit.
“Other than ear popping and things like that I really didn’t feel or hear that much.
“It probably was louder than what I remember because when we opened the vault door there was just utter destruction in the business office.
“Miss Cooksey’s wall had disappeared, debris everywhere, rubble and all of that. We looked out and one of the plate glass windows was completely shattered.
“So I told everyone else to stay in the vault because I did not know where we were with other storms or whatever.
“So I headed out that shattered window towards the campus center and saw all of the devastation and saw the Caudill building.
“My first thoughts were for people’s safety. We talked to building monitors and found out everyone was safe. So then I started making the rounds.
“I did not [feel the building rumble]. I was sitting on the floor of the vault and the vault must be so well protected.
“Power had immediately gone off, so power to our little television that we had in the vault had gone off, so we had no way of knowing [what was happening].
“That’s one of the things we’re going to have to—when we do a critique of this later, and we will—we have to look at how procedures could be bettered. We had no weather radio.
– Dr. Warren Nichols, Former President at Volunteer State