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Harrison Dilworth, a second-year student at the University of South Alabama College of Medicine, was among the five USA students affected by a fire that severely damaged two buildings at the Timber Ridge Apartments on April 23, 2017.
“I was taking a nap when I heard someone beating on my door,” Dilworth said. “When I opened the door, I was hit with a wave of heat. I saw the building next to me was engulfed in flames and the trees in between our buildings were on fire as well, so I immediately ran out of my apartment.”
Dilworth said he called his close friend and medical school classmate, Fareed Rifai, who also lives in the apartment complex but was not affected by the fire. “I asked if I could stay at his apartment for a while and he agreed without hesitation,” he said. “Later that night, some of my closest friends and classmates came to check on me and study with me.”
By the next day, Dilworth said he had clothes, food, supplies and monetary donations from numerous classmates. “More than 100 people have lent a helping hand, most being my classmates who I am extremely grateful for,” he said. “They also spread my story like wildfire—no pun intended—and in the following days numerous faculty and staff members were donating also. I can’t tell you how much the USA community helped me get back on my feet.”
The fire happened during one of the busiest times of the year for medical students, just as the semester was coming to an end. “It was a hiccup at the worst possible time, but thanks to family and friends it did not have that big of an impact on my journey,” he said. “The way the USA College of Medicine students and faculty banded together to help me made a major difference in my life and how I was able to weather the storm.”
According to Dilworth, the fire made a huge impact on his life, teaching him lessons that he will utilize once he is a physician. “I know what it is like to be in need of a helping hand,” he said. “I want to be that physician that is there to help those in need, regardless of their limitations.”
The fire also caused Dilworth to realize his determination and resilience in the face of adversity, which will also be beneficial in the future. Dilworth said he could have easily folded and put studying on the back burner, but he decided to keep pushing forward. “It was a devastating event, but I was able to keep a level head and tell myself that no matter the outcome, I was blessed to be alive and I would be OK,” he said. “I will use this lesson to always try to remain calm and collected when treating patients and no matter how bad things get, keep a level head, give the patient the best care I possibly can and keep pushing forward.”
Dilworth said all donations, supplies, thoughts and prayers are appreciated and he cannot thank everyone enough. “I would not be in the place I am today if it was not for each and every one of you and the love and support you showed me,” he said. “My heart is full and I am extremely proud to be a part of the USA family—Go Jags!”
An emergency fund has been established through the USA Office of Development and the division of student affairs as a way for members of the jaguar family to show their support to affected students. Click here if you would like to donate.
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