A powerful tornado touched down at Piedmont College early Wednesday morning, claiming 10 lives and injuring several more.
“At approximately 9 a.m. this morning, a category three tornado came through the area. Because the Swanson Performing Arts Center sits on a hill, it was badly damaged,” said Fred Bucher, the college’s assistant vice president for facilities management and safety. “We have approximately 70 victims, unfortunately, 10 deceased, and we have 15 that are critical.”
This was the scene Piedmont College students found themselves in what seemed like a typical class morning: as Habersham County and Demorest EMS, firefighters, and law enforcement filled the scene, dozens of nurses worked quickly to assist the injured. Due to the elevated location and placement of the Swanson Center, the area was hit hard by the tornado. There was no reason to prepare for the disaster as there was no cause for concern. “There had not been a tornado warning in effect,” said Bucher, adding that this led everyone to assume there was no imminent danger.
“People were flying everywhere. They were hurt. I was scared,” said Monica, a student who walked away from the scene with minimal injuries. Monica, like many, was at a loss of words for the events that had taken place, left only with these jarring images of what had occurred.
As the unexpected disaster caused a chaotic scene, students who were not at the Swanson Center when the tornado touched down rushed to help out on the scene. “I was really scared,” said student Brooke Cassidy. “I was really supportive to everybody, and I just hope everybody is okay.”
As the scene began to empty and more people were assisted and transported, it was clear this day will have a lasting effect on all involved. The disaster response teams and students alike share the same sentiment as student Camille Johnson who said, “I’m just glad it’s over.”