Magazine article American Forests

A Symbol of Strength

Magazine article American Forests

A Symbol of Strength

Article excerpt

It was only wind and water. Wind and water that destroyed a century of God's work. Wind and water that destroyed manmade structures that have stood the most violent of storms. Yet, one familiar thing remained after Katrina.

The beautiful Gulf Park campus of the University of Southern Mississippi is positioned in what many called paradise, 67 acres of oak-laden grounds in Long Beach, Mississippi. At the southern edge of campus, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, lives a magnificent live oak tree believed to be more than 500 years old. This is the Friendship Oak.

The Friendship Oak has served this campus well. Faculty have held classes in the platform that rests in the security of its limbs. Weddings have been held under its canopy. Tour buses stop daily to admire its massive strength and beauty.

On August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina unleashed her fury on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Through the violent winds and water that ravaged this peaceful campus, Friendship Oak has survived.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I am amazed at its strength. As a child growing up in this quiet neighborhood, I climbed its limbs; I marveled at its beauty.

As reports came in on the tremendous storm damage, I wondered about Gulf Park and my friend. Three days after Katrina I made my way to the campus.

Many buildings were heavily damaged. …

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