By Chris Allen Brown/Associate Editor
If you listen, you can hear it.
You can hear the ear-piercing alarm from an apartment building missing most of its exterior; the sounds of chainsaws slicing up fallen trees blocking the roads; the sirens from emergency vehicles racing through a dampened city.
But if you listen closer, you can hear the cries for help from the students who just had their world rocked by a tornado moments prior. A tornado that wasn’t supposed to hit Jacksonville State University. A tornado that wasn’t supposed to hit … home.
If you asked any of those displaced 18-22-year-old students why they chose to come to JSU, the unanimous response would be, “because it felt like home.”
It felt like home because they are surrounded by friends — some young, some older — they consider family. Just look at the Instagram posts. The football team. The basketball teams. The softball team. The baseball team. Sororities and Fraternities. Those who work together and those who only see each other during study sessions.
“It was never the buildings, the trees or the stadiums that made Jacksonville home,” said former JSU punter and Australian native Hamish Macinnes on social media Tuesday afternoon. “It was the incredible people that made it so special. No wind can blow that away.”
Everyone intertwines to form a bond that shares one thing in common: We are all Jacksonville State Gamecocks and we are all hurting right now.
If you listen, you can hear the sound of a 1929 gospel song echo through the halls of a weathered Mason Hall. Or ringing through an emptied Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium.
The Marching Southerners singing “I’ll Fly Away” has been a staple of Jacksonville State since the downed trees along Highway 204 were planted. The hymn gives hope; it gives meaning; it gives inspiration to those who listen.
“In the wake of all these storms and seeing the damage done to our treasured university, I think all of us Gamecocks are singing ‘I’ll Fly Away’ in our hearts,” tweeted JSU graduate Caden Crosby deep into Monday night. “We are JSU.”
Fellow Gamecock graduate Collin Barnwell took it a step further and posted the lyrics on his social media.
When all feels lost. When all seems clueless. When all hurts.
Continue to listen.
Because help is on the way.
As sure as roofs will be placed back on Logan and Patterson Hall and as sure as Pete Mathews Coliseum will be repaired, you aren’t alone. A simple tweet asking for someone to check on a pet; a Facebook message asking a friend for a place to stay or a Snapchat post reaffirms that belief.
That’s what makes Jacksonville State home. No one is ever alone, especially in a time of such need.
“Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good.”