February 6, 2008from NBC News
Undated -- Violent tornados roared across the southeast overnight destroying hundreds of homes and businesses.
Rescue crews spent the day searching for survivors. By mid-afternoon the death toll had reached 52 across Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky and Alabama.
The winds were mighty enough to bend power poles. Cars were tossed like toys, tractor trailers hurled off a highway.
In Memphis a mall roof collapsed as people were inside shopping.
In Jackson, Tennessee, the storm scored a direct hit on Union University, peeling the roof and sides off dormitories. Dozens were injured, but no one was killed.
For the survivors, this was a day to start picking the pieces and counting their blessings, the beginning of a long rebuilding process.
Tennessee was the hardest hit state, with dozens of deaths and more than a hundred injuries.
In Memphis cars were tossed around and tractor trailers tipped over. Parts of one mall collapsed while people were still inside shopping.
"It happened so fast, we couldn't hide or nothing," said survivor Terrelle Mathis.
Students at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee were trapped inside their dorm rooms when the storm hit.
Unbelievably, no one on campus suffered life-threatening injuries.
"When you see what happened on this campus, and no loss of life, it's an amazing thing and for that, we're most grateful," said Union University President Dr. David Dockery.
Officials are studying the damage at the university and around town, preparing for the next step.
"We'll begin the clean-up process this morning and start rebuilding as soon as we can. We've done it three times before and we'll do it again," said Mayor Jerry Gist.
Clean-up has already begun in parts of Arkansas and in other states, where the healing process of these open wounds is just beginning.Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=StormReports-NBC
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