Summer of Tornadoes Brings out the Best in Limestone Alumni


Anna Moss Web
Anna Moss '09 in Birmingham, Alabama

 Destructive tornadoes, especially in southeastern states during warm months, are nothing new. But the summer of 2011 was packed with particularly wicked doses of devastation; ones that pushed beyond imaginary geographical safety lines

More than 240 people lost their lives when storms terrorized much of the Southeast on April 27. On June 1, barely a month later, six tornadoes swept through parts of Michigan, Ohio, and Massachusetts and claimed more than 150 lives.

And in typical Limestone manner, when lives were shattered and calls for help were deafening, Limestone alumni were there to answer the call.

A Generational Storm
The year was 1951 when a tornado last struck Springfield, Massachusetts. When the 2011 storm hit, Garrett Knapik ’10 (criminal justice) was in the gym, looking forward to his graduation from the police academy so that he could join the Springfield force, a dream he had since sixth grade.

“Everybody was just shocked,” Garret said in response to the reaction when the storm hit. “We had no siren and no alert system; we just do not see these types of storms around here.”

When the wreckage ended, four people had lost their lives. “Trees were down all over town, and houses were demolished. One house was split in half.”

Garrett eagerly volunteered to help residents dig out from the aftermath. In fact, out of the thirty-six police cadets, he was the only one to volunteer his time; and he did so right up to and beyond his academy graduation day. “Whatever needed to be done, I was determined to make it happen. Whether it was helping to clean the debris and tree limbs from the streets and houses or just taking water to the officers, I wanted to do my part in helping my hometown recover.”

On the Ground in Alabama
A 2009 psychology graduate of Limestone, Anna Moss had just earned her master’s in clinical health mental health counseling from Clemson University when the April 27 storms hit. ““I am a South Carolina native who felt the calling to volunteer, to draw upon my interpersonal skills (to make an impact), and after the April 27th devastation, it only seemed natural for me to move to Birmingham to help out,” she said.

The need for help did not subside in the weeks or months after the storms. In fact, the need is still there. “Today, I am a volunteer with Christian Service Mission in downtown Birmingham. We have two warehouses where we store, sort, and prepare boxed items to give to victims. The general state of emotion here in Alabama is a sense of hopefulness; from the larger towns such as Tuscaloosa, to the smaller rural communities like Phil Campbell, everyone has a story to tell, but the positive outlook people have here is unbelievable. ”