Huddled in their safe space, teachers and students pray for protection from Selma tornado

Published 4:00 pm Tuesday, January 17, 2023

By Travis Gupton

The Selma Times-Journal

One of the first places to really feel the power of the Thursday tornado that leveled Selma was Meadowview Elementary School. Situated on Old Orrville Road where the tornado leveled several homes, the school was in the direct path of the storm’s estimated 130 mph winds as students and teachers huddled together and prayed.

“We had been practicing drills, so we went to our safe place just like we practiced,” Meadowview Elementary Principal Chimeria Evans said. “We grabbed our radios and I called out to our leadership team and teachers to grab their radios. Everyone knew what to do and we went into prayer, because we knew once we heard that storm was coming for us, we knew it was out of our hands and all we could do was trust God.”

As the storm approached, Evans said the sound was eerie and unnerving.

“To me it sounded like someone was screaming,” Evans said. “What resonated with me was I thought it was my babies screaming at first. I said ‘that’s the wind’ It was so loud.”

During the storm and even after the storm Evans said that her students were terrified by what they had just experienced.

“Of course, we had babies crying and in panic,” Evans said. “We continued to calm them down. As teachers and leaders, we have to remain calm so that our students and our babies see that we’re calm.”

Although homes just yards away from the school were destroyed, the school had very little damage, just losing a few shingles from its roof. Students will be in remote learning the remainder of the week, as the system is giving them and families time to process the devastation from the storm.

“Our sole goal is to be sure that we reach each and every student to make sure they are ok,” Evans said. “We go back Monday, but right now, like tomorrow we are going to set up and have some food and have some toiletries there. The power is still out at Meadowview. Our goal has been to reach every student because so many of them have lost their homes. We want to make sure they have what they need and that they are ok.”

Like Evans there are those in the school who feel there was something watching over Selma and the school as the tornado blew through town.

“We were very blessed and fortunate to be inside of the building when it happened,” Meadowview Elementary School Teacher Mallory Lovell said. “Because, so much destruction was around our school and all of our faculty and students we completely safe, and everyone was accounted for. It was scary, but we were safe, we were protected and luckily we were able to get all of our students home safely.”