Like many of you, I’m an Auburn fan by birth. When I was younger, I had Auburn cheerleading outfits in more than a few sizes, with bows and hair ribbons to boot. When it came time to apply for college, I sent in one application. And now three years later, I can’t imagine leaving here.
Like many of you, I bleed orange and blue. It’s that simple.
And while this passion skyrockets in love for my University, it also directly correlates to a deep-seeded dislike (to put it nicely) for our instate rivals. The University of Alabama makes my skin crawl.
I’m sure you can identify.
And then as of April 27, all of that was thrown out the window. The University of Alabama was no longer our biggest enemy, but rather fellow Alabamians who were hurting and needed our help.
Money, clothes and supplies were readily given. Heartfelt donations were leaving Auburn by the truckload. Students were bused to western Alabama during exam week to aid in the relief efforts. I spent my first official day of summer dragging branches to the street for a die-hard Alabama fan. “Bless your heart,” she told us when she realized we were from Auburn.
The rivalry was broken quicker than things could be picked up.
Three months later and the rivalry still means nothing. Auburn students recently spent a week in Holt, Ala. with a team of Alabama students rebuilding two homes of tornado victims in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity (founded by the late Millard Fuller ‘57).
“The Alabama students were awesome,” said Taylor Gunter ’11, one of the team leaders. “They were so welcoming. Everyone just wanted to set the rivalry aside and help with the rebuilding efforts. They also told us lots of firsthand accounts, and it was really eye opening because that could have easily been us.”
The 30 Auburn and Auburn-Montgomery students stayed in Alabama’s Riverside West dorms while they were there the week of July 18-22. The idea for this Habitat collaboration with Auburn and Alabama came to fruition about a year ago, and was originally slated to take place in Baldwin County in southern Alabama. However, when the tornados hit Tuscaloosa on April 27, the plans were immediately diverted.
While one house was already started when the two teams arrived, the second was built from the ground up. By the end of the week, two houses were completely framed. Gunter spent her time painting and building walls. She said she was familiar with the work; she had been on mission trips to under-developed countries before.
“It was hard to believe that we were right outside of Tuscaloosa,” Gunter said. “There was nothing there. You could look out and see straight across the whole community. Whole neighborhoods were reduced to concrete slabs. Dogs were walking aimlessly, and there were random items everywhere. I really felt like I was in another country.”
The Auburn students also got to meet the family of 12 that will one day live in the house they helped build. The four family members who were home at the time rode out the tornado in their utilities closet. According to Gunter, the husband and son literally held up the walls to the closet with their hands while everything else crumbled around them.
“It was the scariest three minutes of my life,” the wife told Gunter.
Who are was as Auburn men and women if we can’t come together for those who watched their worlds fall apart at the seams? Beyond football and books and size 4T cheerleading outfits, is an innate sense of community bestowed on us by our University. We are implored to give back at all times and build up those who need it the most.
Even if it is your arch-nemesis.