News | October 13th, 2018
Hurricane Destroys FAMU Students’ Homes
By: Aiyana Ishmael
Following on the heels of an eventful homecoming week, Florida A&M University students and staff were abruptly sent into preparation as Hurricane Michael was developing in the Gulf of Mexico.
Fortunately, Tallahassee wasn’t severally damaged. Off-campus students are still experiencing power outages in the surrounding areas. According to FAMU’s president, Dr. Larry Robinson, there are downed trees, fences, debris and minor property damage on campus.
While FAMU’s campus was salvaged, the Florida panhandle did not have the same luxury. Cities like Mexico Beach, Panama City and Marianna are dealing with the devastating damage Michael left behind.
Many FAMU students are realizing their hometowns were included in the destruction. Fourth year physical therapy major Shamari Pittman is originally from Marianna, FL but relocated to Jacksonville for the hurricane. Pittman was made aware of the damages to his town by family members.
“This is the first time we’ve had an event like that actually happen and actually hit home,” Pittman said. “It was surreal because a lot of the time stuff like that happens you don’t really imagine it happening to yourself, so now it’s kind of like we’re in the process of actually building the whole city from the ground up.”
Oct. 10, Hurricane Michael made landfall on Mexico Beach as a Category 4 hurricane. This was the third-most intense hurricane to make landfall on the United States, after the 1935 Labor Day hurricane and Hurricane Camille of 1969, and the strongest hurricane to ever make landfall in the Florida Panhandle.
“It was actually kind of crazy and hectic because all last week people didn’t even know a hurricane was approaching,” Pittman said. “So we literally went to class Monday and classes were cancelled by the end of the business day for the whole week. We weren’t expecting this at all. There were some people who still hadn’t even left town from homecoming yet.”
A’nire Glenn, a fourth year public relations major, returned to Panama City, FL so that her mother would stop worrying about her safety. She witnessed the hurricane firsthand as her entire town was wrecked by Michael.
“It looked like the apocalypse,” Glenn said. “Everything was flat. Everyone just keeps saying the words ‘God’, ‘flat’, ‘done’ every time we ask about something or some place. It sounds like everyone just has no hope for putting it back together.”
Many students and staff chose to stay in Tallahassee for the hurricane, but able students fled to their respective hometowns to either get away from the storm or be with family during this time. Fourth year health science major, Alexis Kendall, returned to her home in Marianna, FL for the hurricane. Her city was also destroyed by Hurricane Michael.
“During the storm it was very frightening,” Kendall said. “The house was shaking and looking outside all you could see was white. My MCAT books, all $300, got soaked because the roof literally just came off.”
Kendall lives across the street from her uncle, and his entire home was demolished. Luckily, he was able to relocate to her house. Kendall witnessed her uncle’s home completely tear apart while he had his three-month-old and four-year-old daughters with him inside. She and her family weren’t able to correctly prepare for Michael because they didn’t find out its severity until late Monday.
After the storm Marianna’s main passageway was blocked off, but thanks to the community’s hard work they now have a way in and out of town.
“Everyone has been so great in trying to work together,” Kendall said. “We probably won’t have power for a month at least, but it’s the fact that everyone is out here working. Everyone’s been very supportive. At the end of the day it’s all about helping each other.”
Because damage to FAMU was minuscule, students, facility and staff were informed classes will resume Monday, Oct. 15. Kendall and many other students are now having to make the untimely decision to stay and help restore their city or go back to school to fulfill their responsibilities.
“That’s the thing school starts on Monday in Tallahassee,” Kendall said. “I really have no choice even though my family is still struggling down here and I want to be here. I have no choice but to go back to school which is really unfortunate. It puts me in a sticky situation because I have internships and things like that in Tallahassee. I at least want to come back [to Marianna] this Friday and still help as much as I can because the damages won’t be fixed in a week. It will take a very long time.”
Although this hurricane is leaving many cities in the Florida Panhandle completely empty, the only gain seems to be the brotherly love communities are expressing for their neighbors. People are connecting and helping each other rebuild after what feels like a irreparable hurricane.
“It’s a good and a bad thing I guess,” Glenn said. “A lot more people are talking to each other. Like the kids who are away at college and the people who stayed here are helping them look for their families. So there’s some positive. But, honestly I just feel like they should throw a blanket over the whole city, set it on fire and turn it into a landfill, like it doesn’t even look fixable.”