In the aftermath of Tuesday morning’s tornado, Tech President Phil Oldham expressed his gratitude and pride for the work and passion demonstrated by Tech’s community members.
The tornado that touched down throughout Middle Tennessee Tuesday at approximately 2 a.m. was at least an EF-3, meaning winds were moving at a speed of between 135 and 165 mph.
As of Wednesday evening, 18 people in Putnam County are confirmed dead, five of whom are children under the age of 13 and one of whom still remains to be identified.
“This is a very emotionally devastating thing to this community that we’re a part of,” Oldham said to the Oracle staff Wednesday.
He said Tech officials are still gathering information on how many of those directly impacted by the tornado are members of the Tech community. He confirmed Tech employees Ted and Terry McWilliams are of those who experienced significant loss.
“My understanding is that they’re both fine physically, but their entire house was lost. We had some faculty about a dozen or so, that have been directly impacted either through physical injury in a couple cases or significant loss of property,” he said. “There have been a couple cases of a total loss of home and everything they own. We’re trying to compile all that information.”
Tech officials shut down campus Tuesday and Wednesday to allow the community to grieve and aid in relief efforts.
“As a community partner, we wanted to be able to do whatever possible to lend support and assistance and all that. We were still trying to assess if any Tech faculty or staff had been affected personally,” Oldham said. “That’s why the decision was made today to suspend operations and allow community members, specifically students, the opportunity to out and volunteer and provide assistance.”
Oldham said he was proud of how many members of Tech’s community volunteered and assisted in cleanup this week.
At least five sports teams, six Greek organizations and nearly all religious organizations on campus devoted their time and energy to serving the community by volunteering Wednesday morning and sponsoring food drives, donation collections, candlelight vigils and prayer circles.
“The reports I’ve been hearing all day have been incredibly positive. I don’t know how to quantify it but there are hundreds, probably thousands or more out there individually and in groups volunteering in the community,” he said. “It’s a wonderful expression of support and love for this community. It shows what tech students are really all about.”