Only moments passed before we identified the screeching noise. The tornado siren turned on its post in our direction, temporarily drowning out the sound of hail hitting every hard surface surrounding us. I’d only heard that sound on “Twister”.
Where we live the most we ever hear is a muffled voice declaring, “This is a test, and only a test” once a month. Adrenaline surged into my veins and I suddenly didn’t care about my car, or our trip, or anything but finding shelter for the two of us. I spotted the tiny post office in town – a cinder block building with only one window. The siren post was directly behind the post office and turned its din on us as I motioned frantically, yelling at Jordan to park next door under a small crepe myrtle. As soon as the car was parked the hail began to strike the glass roof with deafening blows. We grabbed our cell phones, pulled the hoods up on our sweatshirts, and dashed inside.
The postal clerk invited us inside the back room of the building and showed us where she’d cleared a space under a steel table in case the three of us needed to hunker down there. The next 15 minutes were a blur. We found out we were in French Camp, Mississippi. This was the third time that day the tornado sirens sounded. She informed us this was the first hail they’d had that day, and it was the major indicator of a tornado about to strike. We were shaking, laughing and nervously explaining where we were from and that we didn’t know what to do. The radio played gospel music in the background, interrupted frequently by weather updates and warnings to stay away from windows and find shelter, describing the damage the storm was doing and the predicted path of the tornado. Melody, the postal clerk, offered us the use of the phone to call our parents and let them know where we were in case power or phone lines went down later, leaving us unable to reach the outside world. I left a voicemail for my dad and Jordan sent text messages requesting prayer. Hail continued to pound the roof, and I had no way of knowing the damage it might be doing to my car, possibly ending any travel we would be doing for days.