- (Photo: Baptist Press / Stephanie Schroeder)
A Southern Baptist university is breaking ground Friday for a new student residence complex, just weeks after tornadoes reduced the old housing facilities to rubble.
A groundbreaking ceremony is being held at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and site work is scheduled to begin Feb. 25. The complex will house more than 700 students on the campus of about 3,000 students.
Dozens of tornadoes ripped across the mid-South on Feb. 5, killing at least 54 people and crushing the men's and women's dorms at Union University. While two students remain hospitalized from their injuries, no one was killed on the Jackson campus.
About 1,500 people gathered at the university chapel on Tuesday for the first time since the tornadoes struck. The reunion took place the night before students returned to classes.
"Out of the rubble across this campus, I am praying that we will see renewal in the lives of dozens, and hundreds, of students, staff, faculty, administrators and trustees," Union President David S. Dockery said, according to Baptist Press.
Citing Scripture, Dockery told students and staff that their current situation "may result in a new yearning and hunger for God and the things of God."
Colleges and universities across the country have rallied support to help Union University on its path of recovery. More than 80 institutions have sent some form of aid to Jackson campus.
Belmont University in Nashville sent students, faculty and staff to help with cleanup and also donated $100,000 for Union's recovery.
"We have much for which to be grateful and many friends to whom we are grateful at this time," said Dockery. "The list continues to grow with each passing day."
The new student housing facilities will contain up to 56 bedrooms and bathrooms will be reinforced to serve as a safe room for students in the event of a storm. During the Feb. 5 disaster, many students had rushed to the bathrooms for safety.