A Student Who Broke the Mold

You may have read the story several days ago. Another tornado ripped through Alabama, injuring and even killing people. Ironically, it was almost three years after the deadly tornado hit Tuscaloosa, killing over 50 people. It makes recovery hard.

News reports covered the tragedy thoroughly—but rarely the ordinary people who become heroes amidst the tragedy. This time, a student arose as a hero.

John Servati was, in many ways, an ordinary student at the University of Alabama. According to fellow students, he enjoyed joking and laughing as much as anyone. He enjoyed a good party and was a stud in the swimming pool. John was a junior and swam on The Crimson Tide’s men’s swim team.


I believe it’s important to note that this is where John Servati’s story breaks the mold. John had a huge heart for serving others. He planned on serving this summer on an overseas mission trip in a developing nation. He was an encourager, as his teammates will tell you. And, on the night of the tornado, John had sought out a safe place with his girlfriend to shelter themselves from the tornado. As it terrorized everyone, forcing down walls, a concrete wall fell on John and his girlfriend. He found a way to hold up the wall just long enough for her to get out from under it. He never did. He died instantly, the wall crushing him underneath its weight.

Tweets were sent afterward: John Servati died a hero. Held up a concrete wall long enough for his girlfriend to get out from under it before it collapsed again on him.

John’s mom later told their team two things: he’d always wanted to be an Alabama swimmer, and he’d always wanted to be a hero. He accomplished both.

Alabama team captain Philip Deaton said, “John definitely had a genuine heart. He was a carefree guy who always had this huge smile on his face. He was my training partner for three years, and I can tell you that while he liked to goof around and have fun, when he stepped up on the block, he was intensely focused. He was a competitor and an amazing teammate. As a team, we are doing the best we can right now.”

I just wanted you to know John’s story. In a world where millions of students are self-absorbed, lack discipline and work ethic, and often act entitled, John Servati stood as an exception to that rule. He never claimed to be perfect, but I love it when an emerging leader from Generation iY models vision, sacrifice, and service for their peers (and, for that matter, all of us).

You deserve to take a victory lap, John.

A Student Who Broke the Mold