My fiancee and I parted ways at about 6:15 on February 5, after sharing dinner in the cafeteria together. I had a meeting in the library to attend at 7, and headed back to my room to watch a few minutes of the incoming results of “Super Tuesday” political primaries. It had already become very windy outside, and soon the tornado sirens were sounding throughout the men’s housing complex where I lived. As a lifelong West Tennessean, this was nothing new. I had been hearing these sirens all my life, and had frankly come to take a totally dismissive attitude toward them. However, this meant that all of the upstairs residents in our two-story complexes had to come downstairs until the sirens stopped sounding. Several other boys joined my roommates and me downstairs that night, trying to tune out the blaring sirens while we pulled for Mike Huckabee to get a big win that night for Southern Baptists at the polls. Close to seven, I received a text message telling me my meeting was cancelled.
I was standing in the doorway of my bedroom when suddenly, I felt an intense pressure building in the room like I had never before experienced, and for a moment, everything went completely still and silent. The electricity immediately failed, and the large glass windows in our apartment exploded all at once, cutting and covering the six or seven guys in my living room. I was knocked to the gound as the whole building felt like it had been rocked by a violent blow. An angry gust of wind blasted its way into our apartment, blowing dirt and debris into my face, and carrying objects of various sizes in from the outside with a crash. The force was so great that it was difficult to stand back up. A few feet behind me, my bed was being sucked out the window. As the wind relentlessly poured into our room, I remember distinctly recognizing the possibility that a heavy chair or something else from the outside could blow in and kill someone in its path.
The other young men occupying the room were screaming directions at one another to get to the bathroom for cover, and I was able to crawl my way inside to join them. Though I had not been hurt, almost all of them were bleeding from cuts on their arms and faces caused by the shards of glass that had once been the living room window behind their heads. The sight of blood oozing down the faces of my friends as we huddled there in the darkness had a remarkably sobering effect for me. Their eyes were wide with shock, our bodies were trembling with fear and a rush of adrenaline, but everyone was checking each other for injuries. The ceiling had begun to cave in on us, and water was pouring down from the severed pipes of the bathroom directly overhead. The wind continued to roar, and it felt as if a wrecking ball were outside, demolishing our building and everything else around it. As for hundreds of our fellow students at that moment, it began to register on some of our faces that we could very well be preparing to die together in that little bathroom. With these thoughts racing through our minds more quickly than we could grab hold of them, we asked my roommate Blake to pray.