Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Life after the storm: Post-disaster is only Tuscaloosa freshman have known

Tuscaloosa is a place of rich tradition and routine. April 27, 2011 proved to be anything but as lives were shattered and ended in a show of natural fury. For many Alabama students with no direct connection to the loss of life or property, the tornado meant a disruption of normalcy more than anything else. School closed abruptly and the semester ended on a somber note.

One of the untold stories of the event is of the people who were not on campus, but would be coming soon. The freshman class of the 2011-2012 year was forced to rethink their college decision at a pivotal time in their lives.


Despite the complication, this year has seen the biggest freshman class in history of the University.


Emily Passwaters decided to come to Alabama in October of 2010 because she loved her visit to campus and wanted to go to an SEC school. On April 27, she was home from her high school in Delaware, recovering from a cold.


“All I remember was my dad waking me up telling me a tornado hit Tuscaloosa. I started to freak out because I thought that meant it hit our campus and there wouldn’t be anywhere to go,” Passwaters said.


Rebecca Moss was in Tuscaloosa on a campus visit over Easter weekend and left the day before the tornado. The storm delayed her flight back home to California, but she was able to get out before things got bad.


“I fell in love with UA on my visit and the tragedy made me feel even more connected to the school. I felt like I was a part of it already, even though I had just officially registered the day before,” Moss said.


Stories like Passwaters and Moss’s litter the narrative of the college decision process last year, as the tornado caused a public relations crisis for University staff.


In the immediate aftermath of the storm, three emails were sent to prospective students and high school guidance counselors.


One of the emails said, “As you probably know, Tuscaloosa was struck by a tornado on April 27, 2011. In the days since then, we have received a tremendous outpouring of support and encouragement from all over the world, and we are grateful to those who have reached out.  We have also received a number of questions about the condition of The University of Alabama campus and the storm’s impact on our community.” The email linked to a video with frequently asked questions about the situation in Tuscaloosa and how it would affect prospective students if they choose to attend in the fall.


Alvin Lockett is a freshman studying accounting and a Tuscaloosa native. Lockett seriously reconsidered his college choice when the tornado hit.


“I was pretty upset that it happened because I had already made my mind up as far as where I would enroll during the fall semester, I had doubts on whether or not I would gain a suitable experience due to the state in which we, the citizens, of Tuscaloosa was in,” Lockett said.


Andrew Gross is a freshman Business Management major from Utah. Gross said that he was shocked when he heard the news of the tornado and was concerned that he would be attending a school in an area so susceptible to tornadoes.


But Gross said that he, “kept in mind the prestigious qualities the Capstone holds, which helped maintain my original perception of the school. I also came to the realization that natural disasters occur all over the country, but in different forms.”


Mary Spiegel, the executive director of undergraduate admissions said that potential students rarely ask about the tornado and that the disaster has not affected student recruitment.


“When asked we do share our experiences as well as most importantly how proud we are of our students through all their community service. There are times when we touch on the outreach of the university as well,” Spiegel said.


Spiegel said that comments from some incoming freshmen indicated that the way the students and the community responded to the tornado helped them make the decision to come to UA.


“The tornado actually brought the largest freshman class in the history of UA together prior to classes beginning,” Spiegel said.


Since those freshman decided to come in spite of the disaster; a logical question becomes how has it factored into their first year experience?


Passwaters felt that the University has not done anything special for freshman to get involved in tornado efforts but does believe that they have helped make the University and community feel united.


“I don’t think that the tornado affected my freshman year, in a good or bad way. I just feel like UA is more of a family and everyone is going out of their normal day lives,” Passwaters said.


Robert Pendley, a freshman double major in Political Science and Spanish said that the tornado affected his freshman year by making him more aware of his role as a student volunteer.


“Since there has been such a need for volunteerism since April 27th and since I, as a student here at Alabama, have been emotionally connected to this disaster, I have had a greater since of responsibility to help out in any way I can,” Pendley said.













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