Students Killed at North Georgia College by Tornado
BY TOI MEKHI WATSON
Mar 24, 2021
A tornado struck North Georgia and made contact on the campus of Piedmont College, killing several students and leaving several injured. Medical professionals are treating a wide range of injuries from moderate to near fatal, and the number of casualties is currently unknown.
“We had a tornado hit the Swanson Center this morning at approximately 10 a.m. which made something go wrong on the roof, making the Swanson Center catch on fire,” said Piedmont College Chief of Police James Andrews.
The tornado hit right as a couple hundred nursing students arrived at the Swanson Center for disaster training. Most students injured and killed are nursing students. For those who narrowly escaped the storm, the events took a turn; seniors to freshmen were thrown into a life-saving and life-threatening emergency.
Overcome with shock and grief, they struggled through the heavy smoke to help who they could until medical professionals arrived. Distraught, a nursing student identified only as Kaleigh, searched the bodies laid across the campus lawn.
“I can’t find Ollie. I looked everywhere; I just can’t find him,” said the nursing student.
From across the lawn, bloodied students could be heard calling out for help.
“I can’t hear. Leave me alone. I can’t hear. A tornado blew through,” said nursing student Alberto Perez.
Warming blankets and body bags line the lawn of the Swanson Center while authorities try to keep onlookers away.
While severe storms are typical in this area at this time of year, a tornado is not. The last tornado warning was in April 2019. Rotation was sighted, but it never touched ground. Lieutenant Matt Ruark with the Habersham County Fire Department was at the scene.
“It was a category 3 tornado that touched down on the roof, collapsing it, and triggering a fire,” said Ruark. “We have not determined the number of casualties. This is a sad, sad day. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who have yet to be notified, as this is an ongoing investigation. That is all I can say at this time.”