The Warrior Miracle; Oak Grove basketball team survives tornado

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A minute may not seem like a long time, but to the Oak Grove High School girls basketball team, it felt like an hour. A normal Sunday afternoon practice became a survival story they'll remember for a long time.

"We were in the middle of working on a play, and (Coach Swindle) stopped us to talk about it, and all the sudden we just heard this wind pick up," recalled Oak Grove senior guard Constance Quinn.

"We had been hearing the tornado sirens the whole time during practice," said her teammate Kaylnn Smith, "but you never think of it, because you hear them all the time. Tornadoes never come through Hattiesburg, Mississippi."

On this day, a powerful EF4 tornado was plowing its way through West Hattiesburg. The girls knew when arrived at Oak Grove.

"The gym door is closed, and when it's closed, it's locked. The tornado opened the door," said Smith. 

"At that time, we heard a train basically come in the gym," remembers head coach Mark Swindle.

Quinn and some of her teammates didn't just hear the twister...they saw it coming.

"I looked outside, and I just saw this black wind just circling around as if it were a Tornado," said Quinn, "I was in shock."

Swindle, his assistant and their team did they only thing they could, and sprinted for the girls locker room, located next to the door. They reached the locker room and quickly tried to locate their cell phones, because the power had been knocked out by that time.

"With everyone yelling and screaming out of shock, (Coach Swindle) said, 'Get in the showers! Get in the showers!'" said Quinn.

"We ran, and the lights went off, and it was horrible," says Smith.

"That was the worst 30 seconds of our life."

"We couldn't see anything. The roofs were caving in, and it was as if the tornado was in the locker room."

"Out of the 28 years I've been coaching, this was definitely the scariest moment I've ever been through," says Swindle, "We thought at one point, it wasn't' going to be good for us.

"We looked the next day, and the door to the locker room where we went through was basically torn off the hinges, and the lock was blown off the door. so it was probably a lot worse that what we thought of."

The team didn't realize what became of the baseball and football facilities until the next day. They looked across the parking lot to see the baseball field, indoor hitting facility, and the football field house completely torn apart. "When I looked at the baseball field, and saw the football field house, tears were just coming to my eyes because I couldn't believe it."

Seeing the destruction they survived, the Warriors couldn't help but wonder if someone somewhere was watching out for them.

"It was a hundred yards away from the gym. It could have easily come through here and destroyed everything, including us, but God watched after us, and I can't do anything but be thankful for it," said Smith.

Quinn could only remember the event in one way, saying, "It's a miracle."

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