Severe Weather Awareness Week hits home for Enterprise City Schools

Posted by: Melissa Johnson - bio | email

Enterprise, AL (WSFA) –  It's severe weather awareness week in Alabama, and school systems across the state are taking the opportunity to practice tornado safety.

This week, it's only a drill, but students and administrators at Enterprise High School know that the scary situation they're practicing played out in real life at their own school.

Principal Rick Rainer said, "I never took drills lightly, but it was one of those things that you really never thought would happen to you."

But Rainer did see the unimaginable, and it forever changed the way students and teachers went about tornado drills.

Ashley Swanson, a 2009 graduate of Enterprise High School said, "Before it happened, I thought it was just a joke.  During the drills, we joked around in the hallways and we didn't listen to the teachers."

Principal Rainer said, "Now, we always emphasize to them that this can happen.  We have the real life story and the tragedy to tell."

In fact, Monday is the three year anniversary of the day that tornado ripped through the high school, killing eight students.

Rainer said, "It can happen anytime, anywhere, and being prepared is the key to saving as many lives as possible."

Tornado shelters have already been incorporated into the new Enterprise High School.

Now, three more schools in the district have that same protection, thanks to a grant from FEMA.

Thursday, the school system was presented with checks totaling over $824,000 to help pay for tornado shelters at Harrand Creek, Rucker Boulevard and Hillcrest Elementary Schools.

Bob Tomberlin, the Director of Operations for Enterprise City Schools, said, "We've already built those shelters, but now we'll be reimbursed for 75% of the cost."

"Imagine when we finally get tornado shelters in every school," Tomberline said.  "The safest place in town will be at the schools."

For now, students and administrators say making safety a priority is their way of remembering.

Ashley Swanson said, "I feel like we're caring on their honor by protecting ourselves."

Rainer said, "We will never forget what can happen with Mother Nature."

They hope to make sure the lives lost three years ago weren't in vain.

Monday, the entire school system will hold a moment of silence at 1:12 PM, the time the tornado hit on March 1st, 2007.

©2010 WSFA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.