Screams of “FIRE!” spread across the college campus on an early morning of February 1929. Ninety years ago the lone Girls’ Dorm on the David Lipscomb College campus was ablaze. Pandemonium erupted as girls screamed, dangling from the third-floor balconies by their hands, waiting to drop to the arms of other students. The firetrucks were 5 miles away in downtown Nashville. The girls on the other side of Harding Hall had tied bedsheets together down by which all but one scrambled to safety.
Fire escapes? No, no fire escapes. The paternal administration of the small Christian college had removed them. No sneaky guy or gal could ever enter or leave the premises unnoticed.
Sixteen-year-old Beryl was alone in the conflagration. She was the youngest (and stockiest), the one who held the bedsheets down which the other girls descended to safety. A heroic basketball player had somehow climbed the red-hot guttering and tried to hold the improvised rope, but her tired arms gave out as she exited the window. Her mangled, broken body was taken to President H. Leo Boles home and laid on his dining room table awaiting an ambulance that would take her to Saint Thomas Hospital in downtown.
An older student rushed to the hospital the following day to inquire about his girlfriend’s status. Several girls had suffered burns. He met the badly injured Beryl. The following day Hooper brought her a rose. And the next. And for the 18 months of hospitalization that followed of surgeries on her badly broken back, broken pelvis, and broken leg. The teen never returned to school.
The former girlfriend is forgotten, Hooper marries young Beryl. She will forever walk with a limp. The young couple is cautioned that due to the fragility of her back she could never carry a child.
Nearly twenty years pass. “Surprise! Surprise!” – yes, TWINS! Born at Saint Thomas Hospital of course, where the love story first bloomed.
So when folks ask me if I believe if God still works in our world today or why Romans 8:28 is a favorite verse, my twin brother Frank Hooper Scott and I both smile and say “You got time to hear a love story that begins with a terrible fire?....”