Hope Baptist School reopens

Whose campus was destroyed by an EF-3 tornado in December 2019
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 6:08 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 2, 2021 at 6:26 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - It’s been almost two years since a Dec.16, 2019 tornado ripped through the campus of Hope Baptist Church on LA-28 West in Alexandria. For the first time since that day, about 25 students returned to the classroom on Aug. 23, to a building that stands on the same slab from Dec. 16.

Students and faculty were still on site when the EF-3 tornado tore through, but when a weather alert let them know a tornado was in the area, they rushed over to the sanctuary for cover. Somehow, no one was injured during the storm, but the buildings were not so fortunate.

“If you’d have been on the campus or in the building that day, you’d probably say there’s no way anybody should have walked out of that building alive, much less nobody hurt,” said Pastor Rusty Thrift.

Despite a year filled with many challenges - from moving between temporary buildings to sending students home due to COVID-19 - the students have been resilient.

“The building is different, the gym is different, but this is kind of like home,” said Thrift. “So, they’re just glad to be home.”

Thrift credits much of the rebuilding process to a massive outpouring of community support. He said more than 200 people showed up to help clean up the campus following the tornado, and they received a steady stream of donations and encouragement from not only the Central Louisiana community but also from strangers everywhere.

“You kind of get the idea sometimes that everything in the world is wrong, everything is bad, everybody’s bad,” said Thrift. “But there are still good people out there that love other people. I think that’s the lesson that I’ve taken from it anyway, that, you know, it’s not us against them. We’re all in this together.”

Along with the school building, the new worship center, which will house the sanctuary, Sunday school rooms and administrative offices, is supposed to be complete by the end of the year.

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