Local News

Tornado-stricken Shaw University celebrates recovery

Posted April 16, 2012 1:42 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2012 2:13 p.m. EDT

— A year after a tornado shut down Shaw University, students are back in class, the cafeteria has reopened, and more than two dozen buildings have been repaired.

"I was told by many that Shaw would not reopen. And I was told that if it did, it sure wouldn't reopen within a year, as a matter of fact," Shaw President Dorothy Yancy said. "We have made believers of them all, I think."

The April 16, 2011 tornado damaged 27 buildings – nearly every one on campus – and caused $3.7 million in damage. Shaw canceled classes for the rest of the school year.

Arminus Patterson recalled huddling in a hallway with fellow students.

"I was shutting the door. Next thing I know, the glass started to burst. Then we just started seeing the wind," Patterson said. "The only thing we could think was to get down in the hallway. I got up in a ball against the wall. We just started praying together as a team."

Shaw marked the one-year anniversary of the storms Monday with the official reopening of the Willie E. Gary Student Center. The student center, which sustained the most damage in the storms, is at the heart of student life and holds a cafeteria and two dormitories.

Students ate in the cafeteria for the first time after a year of dining in trailers.

The school gave tours of the repaired buildings, and 4th District Rep. David Price and Raleigh City Councilman Eugene Weeks spoke at a ceremony.

The university rebuilt with money from insurance, donations and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Some challenges still remain. Enrollment has dropped 13 percent since the tornado. School officials said they are increasing recruitment efforts.