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Tornado Anniversary: University of Memphis Group Comes to Aid of Austin Peay

Originally published in The Leaf Chronicle (2/10/99)

A close call on the interstate followed by a long traffic delay were not about to keep University of Memphis students from helping their friends at Austin Peay State University.

It took nearly five hours for two truckloads with clothing and school supplies to arrive at the Clarksville campus Tuesday afternoon.
Originally published in The Leaf Chronicle (2/10/99)

A close call on the interstate followed by a long traffic delay were not about to keep University of Memphis students from helping their friends at Austin Peay State University.

It took nearly five hours for two truckloads with clothing and school supplies to arrive at the Clarksville campus Tuesday afternoon.

“We were one car away from an accident on the interstate and waited an hour for traffic to clear, but we were determined to be here,” said Daniel Armitage, a resident director at the University of Memphis.

A 1983 graduate of Austin Peay, Armitage was saddened by the damage to his alma mater's buildings in the Jan. 22 tornado and wanted to help however he could.

He knew many students lost personal items during the violent storm.

“I called Joe Mills, APSU's housing director and asked him what he needed,” he said. “We just started collecting stuff and someone suggested getting college frat shirts.”

Armitage and others at his school then scrambled for donations, asking anyone and everyone who was willing to give.

The staff first went to the resident houses for donations. It took five days to gather pencils, notebooks, clothes and alarm clocks.

Then there was cash.

The group amassed nearly $1,000 in checks, bills and coins, which were presented in a neat little box to Mills.

“I thought of just giving APSU one check but I felt the cash would have more meaning,” Armitage said.

Mills' first stop was to put the money in an APSU relief fund.

Now that APSU has enough clothing to last the semester, what the campus really needs is money to buy trees.

“FEMA doesn't cover loss of trees and bushes so cash donations are much in demand,” Mills said.

The university's focus now is on Operation Green, its project to replenish trees and shrubbery that were ripped up and destroyed by the tornado.

Armitage said what's impressed him the most are the resident assistants in the APSU dorms that were hit by the tornado.

“You have a group of student employees tat are sitting around in the middle of the building as it's being blown away,” said. “And they're running students done to a safe area. It just goes to show that the training pays off.”