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That day after Christmas, when a deadly tornado tore through Garland, a lot of people were caught wondering where they should go. The first place Maresa Bailey thought to go, was school.

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“There was an immediate tweet about one of our students, and that his house was gone.”

Bailey is Principal of Lakeview Centennial High School, just a few blocks north of where the tornado touched down in Garland.

Cameron Fairchild

Cameron Fairchild

“So I came up here and I had tweeted that I was coming up here, and not for anybody to endanger themselves, but we had students who were affected and we would want to collect water and items for them. And I was shocked that there were people who came up here.”

This is just minutes after the tornado struck. Bailey and teachers, students, and other volunteers began collecting anything and everything, anyone whose home was hit by the tornado might need. Clothes, toiletries, bottled water… people spontaneously dropped off donations at the school. The atrium was stacked chest-high with supplies. So many supplies, Bailey was able to share with the Red Cross, churches, and anybody else who needed help.

Cameron Fairchild

Cameron Fairchild

“All of the people in the cafeteria were boxing up those clothes and they sorted them.”

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Once the immediate crisis passed, it was time for students to return from winter break, and Bailey discovered the recovery process was really just beginning. Kids were glad to get back to class.

“I think for us this was stability for our kids. That was chaos, everything outside of here was chaos. But there was structure here, there was a schedule, there were their friends.”

In the wake of all the damage, and chaos, and heartbreak, Lakeview Centennial High School was a safe, familiar place for students affected by the tornado.

Cameron Fairchild

Cameron Fairchild

“Seeing it happen somewhere else on TV, it’s not the same as when you’re actually see it in your own community.”

Bailey says recovery will take a long time, and there are reminders everywhere, such as the homes blasted by the tornado…

“I have to drive past the apartments every morning. And every evening. I have to see that every day. So it doesn’t go away. I’m going to know that’s where they were.

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