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Rain doesn’t stop tornado benefit concert at Alabama school

September 27, 2018

JACKSONVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The weather can’t keep Jacksonville State University down.

In spite of a tornado that swept through the campus in March and dealt millions of dollars in damage to the campus, the school held strong. Volunteers from the Southeast gathered over the weeks following the storm to clean the campus of debris, downed trees and power lines. The devastated campus came back to life in the summer semester, and resumed normal operations by August.

So it may be no surprise that when rain kicked up a few hours before the Alabama & Friends benefit concert Wednesday night, neither bands nor their fans were stymied. It’s going to be a long time before rain gets respect again in Jacksonville.

In a press conference before the concert, Alabama lead singer Randy Owen said that he drove through Jacksonville the day after the March 19 tornado, and was overcome with emotion describing the scene.

“This is my university, and it’s very much a part of me,” said Owen, a Jacksonville State graduate and trustee. “The devastation here was beyond anything you can talk about unless you saw film of it or you were here personally.”

Owen offered his thanks to the university’s staff and students for holding together during a difficult time.

“Just the fact we can keep the student body together — and thank God this didn’t happen while we were here in session, because this whole area had a lot of damage,” he said. “We’re hoping to bring about awareness and continue the story. We won’t let this go away.”

The concert featured multiple bands: Alabama headlined the show, alongside Shenandoah, Jamey Johnson, Charlie Daniels, Riley Green and comedian Darren Knight, among others. Sweet Tea Trio opened the show with the national anthem and their own set.

While attendees weren’t crammed shoulder to shoulder in the general admission stands, seats were filled to a respectable level, and floor seating in front of the stage was packed in.

According to Alabama’s Teddy Gentry, 100 percent of the night’s income is going directly to the school to help with rebuilding efforts.

“What we’ve learned from our friends in country music is whenever there’s hard times,” he said. “Charlie Daniels (for example), we’ve never asked him to do a charitable event that he wouldn’t step up to the plate and not take a penny for doing it.”

Jacksonville-based country singer Riley Green, another Jacksonville State alumnus, said he drove into town from Nashville the day after the tornado and was struck with extent of the damage.

“The fact that nobody died is a miracle,” he said. “From the outside looking in, that makes it seem like it was not that bad of a storm, but coming and seeing it told me a lot about it.”

Green said he accomplished a lot of goals at the school and was excited to give back in any way he could.

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Information from: The Gadsden Times, http://www.gadsdentimes.com

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