Pickerington native helps mobilize support for tornado victims
Things have finally slowed down enough that Pickerington native Nathan Corder can take a deep breath and reflect on what he witnessed in one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in U.S. history.
“Twelve days ago, I experienced one of the most terrifying experiences of my life,” Corder said. “I was spared. I thanked God.”
On April 27, Corder started a typical day as a junior mathematics major and athlete at the University of Alabama. When the first tornado siren wailed, he and his fellow students sought shelter in their classroom.
After that warning ceased, he located his girlfriend and after noting the dark, rolling clouds, they headed for more solid shelter, certain something bad was imminent.
“I was outside when the second tornado started,” Corder said. “I saw a bright blast of light, and that’s when we decided to bunker down in the closest dorm room.”
After the third tornado passed through the area, the power went out – and it stayed out. Once they ventured out into the community, they realized how close they were to being victims as well.
“I was half a mile from ‘ground zero,’” Corder said.
Corder, who is a runner, was familiar with the neighboring towns of Holt and Alberta, which were right in the path of the tornadoes.
“I thought I’d seen the worst thing I had ever seen, and then I turned a corner and stood corrected,” he said, his throat choking up in recollection of his former running sites. In the rural town of Holt, he described, “It looks like you just took a scythe and split it in two.
“There was so much destruction, so much hurt,” he said. “I had to do something. So I just started asking two questions – ‘What can I do?’ and ‘What can you do?’”
The 20-year-old has a strong foundation in the Christian faith, as he grew up as an active member of Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church and now attends Calvary Tuscaloosa Baptist. Following in the footsteps of his parents, Don and Jill Corder, who volunteer in the community and always encouraged him to do so as well, he recalled hearing about “Convoy of Hope.”
“As soon as a disaster happens, they send trucks with supplies – without even knowing where they are going to end up,” he said. “I called them and told them the students at our church were willing to help, and they said, ‘Sure, let’s do it.’”
The 2008 graduate of Pickerington North High School set up a Facebook page “Tuscaloosa Tornado: What You Can Do” as a means of connecting with the world. Almost immediately, offers of help started pouring in – including vast supplies and cash donations of more than $60,000.
“In 12 days we mobilized hundreds of volunteers and distributed almost 500,000 pounds of relief aid to thousands of people in dire need,” he said, noting they processed almost 200 families each day. “We worked 18 hour days for 12 straight days and slept in the pews of the church. Words cannot express my gratitude to everyone who sacrificed so much in Jesus’ name.”
After the 12 days, the student volunteers elected to turn the operation over to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
“They just do it better,” he said. “In those first days when there was nothing and no one to help, we did our best to help everyone. But now, they will be better served if we turn our resources over to FEMA. We will turn our efforts into helping them.”
Next, Corder will focus on the 31 families the church is adopting in an effort to move them into new homes.
“We are committed to being here and helping them rebuild the city,” Corder said.
Although many of the immediate needs of the community’s tornado survivors have been met, there is still much to be done. Corder encouraged anybody interested in helping to visit www.convoyofhope.org/go/ua to learn about making a contribution to Convoy of Hope.
“The entire South was hit hard,” he said. “We have depleted their warehouse.”
In addition, the Calvary Tuscaloosa Baptist Church has set up a PayPal account at www.calvarytuscaloosa.org for anybody interested in making a contribution to the relief efforts.