Eagles supporting Eagles: USM family reaches out
Published: Thursday, February 14, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 14, 2013 00:02
On Saturday, Associate Athletic Director of Marketing and Communications Brent Jones sat in Reed Green Coliseum cheering on and supporting his beloved Golden Eagle basketball team. Just more than 24 hours later, the tables had turned and Southern Miss was stepping up to support Jones.
Jones and his wife, who is five-months pregnant, were in their home off Weathersby Road near Turtle Creek Mall when a tornado ripped through Hattiesburg, damaging hundreds of homes in its path.
“It was pretty scary, it took about 15 or 30 seconds to pass,” Jones said. “When I walked outside with my wife it looked like a bomb had gone off.”
Jones and his wife took cover in a bathtub while the storm raged outside, and he said they were luckily not injured.
Once the tornado had passed, Jones said he initially didn’t think his home was too damaged until the water started pouring in from the rains that followed.
“We’re lucky, we were able to pick and choose some of the stuff we wanted to get out, but some of our neighbors didn’t,” Jones said, adding that he was able to salvage his marriage certificate and some clothes that had been bought for the baby.
But for Jones, though the memories of the storm are vivid in his mind, the feeling of support he’s received from his Southern Miss family is stronger.
“The response has been overwhelming,” Jones said. “It’s amazing.”
Jones added that all his vehicles were destroyed in the storm, and with the help of a fellow Southern Miss staff member, he was able to get a temporary truck immediately.
“You find out who your friends are,” Jones said. “I’ve been overwhelmed with support from fans, faculty, staff and alumni who just wanted to help out.”
In another athletic department office, volleyball head coach Abbey Sutherland said she was also overwhelmed with support when her car and home were also destroyed in Sunday’s tornado.
Sutherland said a pine tree fell on her car and the back of her house, and she had just gotten home from a weekend of recruiting in Dallas when the storm hit.
“I ran for cover in the middle of the house and tried to get my dogs into the bathroom,” Sutherland said. “Thankfully we found out the whole team was safe through text messages.”
Sutherland said she felt the same pride in her Southern Miss community following the disaster.
“I have absolutely felt a sense of community,” Sutherland said. “I honestly felt warm fuzzies when I saw 10 people helping me carry bits of a tree the day after the disaster. I would have been lost without help....So many people have reached out.”