Shelter In The Storm

Thursday, May 12, 2011 - 8:59am

Employees find shelter in vault when tornado destroys bank.

Two weeks ago, an EF-5 tornado tore through Smithville, Mississippi destroying buildings including city hall, the post office and even the town's bank.

Three Renasant Bank workers survived thanks to a little quick thinking.

"It was looking dark outside and just kind of an eerie feeling," says Teresa Crosby.

"I wasn't thinking anything happening here or what was going to take place," adds Vivian Grier. "It was really shocking, and surprising when the wind started picking up and everything."

"We headed to the vault and when I pulled the door to me, the power went off," said Phyllis Morgan.

Grier, Morgan, and Crosby were no more than co-workers before April 27, but now they share a bond as tornado survivors.

"We could see the sky and insulation and light fixtures and everything," Morgan continues. "I could feel the little shards of glass that were flying in."

Bank workers attribute surviving that traumatic tornado by hiding in the bank's safest spot: the vault.

"If we'd been behind teller row, windows were blown out, the roof was blown off, doors were blown off and debris went everywhere," Morgan said.

"Just thankful that we were alive, but devastated from all the destruction," Crosby adds.

Morgan says she had worked at the bank on this location since 1975, and helped design the interior.

Meanwhile Grier, a lifelong Smithville resident, is still in shock at the state of the town.

"I was born and raised in Smithville so it was devastating to see what had happened," she said.

Now all that stands at the location is a temporary banking facility expecting to open soon, and of course the vault that saved the lives of these three women.

The bank secured all accounts, private information, and cash so none of it was released from the vault during the tornado.

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