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Coast William Carey student finds blessing in aftermath of tornado

Savannah Saucier of Necaise stands outside the gym at William Carey University in Hattiesburg on Saturday. Saucier was not on campus when the tornado struck, but returned to help with recovery efforts.
Savannah Saucier of Necaise stands outside the gym at William Carey University in Hattiesburg on Saturday. Saucier was not on campus when the tornado struck, but returned to help with recovery efforts. jclark@sunherald.com

The main campus of William Carey University on Saturday was in disarray after an early-morning tornado ripped through the private Christian school’s grounds.

The twister ripped roofs from buildings, twisted metal around trees and overturned cars. A statue of Christ remained unharmed, becoming the iconic image of the storm. And for many, the statue was a symbol — of the hope to move forward and a reminder that no one died on campus from the destructive force of nature that claimed the lives of four people in the surrounding area.

Savannah Saucier, 19, was at home in Hancock County when the storm hit early Saturday morning. The William Carey sophomore basketball player and graduate of Hancock High School said she started receiving some troubling texts about 4 a.m.

“I actually live on campus but I was at home last night,” she said. “I started getting some texts that a tornado had hit the school.”

And although none of her friends or teammates was killed in the storm, she said there were some injuries.

“Two of my teammates had to go to the hospital — one had to get stitches in her leg and the other had an injury to her back,” she said.

Extensive damage from 2017 tornado on Magnolia and Cherry Streets and at William Carey University.

Saucier could have stayed at her Necaise home with her family, but she decided she needed to help her teammates as the campus was shut down and all of the students had to be moved to new living quarters.

“My parents and I came up here around 9 this morning and I’ve been helping my friends,” she said. “One of my friends has parents who are missionaries in Brazil and we had to help her move her stuff.”

She said although she knew when she left Necaise there had been some damage to the campus, she was not prepared for what she saw.

“I was pretty emotional when we got here, but I’m so thankful to God that it wasn’t any worse,” she said. “When I got here, it reminded me of (2005’s) Hurricane Katrina.”

As for what’s next for Saucier and her teammates, she said she has no idea.

“We were supposed to play in Mobile today and I don’t know what we’re going to do,” she said. “But I’m just glad that no one was killed — we are truly blessed.”

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