SOSO, Miss. (WDAM) - Monday, April 12 marks the one-year anniversary of the 2020 Easter Sunday tornado outbreak that devastated communities across the Pine Belt.
One of the hardest-hit areas was the town of Soso, where the tornado destroyed many buildings, including the town’s fire department.
Easter Sunday is normally a day that is normally filled with worship, family and Easter Egg Hunts. It is a day that’s supposed to be filled with happiness.
But Easter Sunday 2020 was anything but. Chief Anthony Pitts with the Soso Volunteer Fire Department recalls that faithful day.
“I remember we were home,” Pitts said. “I believe we had been to church that morning, I’m sure we had. I told my wife, ‘Let’s go to the station because if it hits, I would rather cut out of here where I’ve got the equipment than try to get from my house to here.’”
He didn’t know it at the time, but at 4:52 p.m., he was going to have to put that plan into action.
“The wind was blowing one way and then started shifting directions,” Pitts said. “And I said, ‘No, the doors are going to have to come down. We’re fixing to get hit.’ And that’s the point that I knew that It wasn’t going to bypass us. We were going to take a hit.”
The little town of Soso was in the path of the storm with a large tornado on the ground.
“We got in the hallway. Watched the roof over the trucks just leave,” Pitts said. “A lot of breaking glass, a lot of wind and a lot of pressure, and then it was just gone.”
Pitts knew he had to begin the rescue efforts immediately, but there was one big problem.
“I couldn’t get a truck out,” Pitts said. “The trucks were in the building [and were] not going to move. The front post beam holding the front of the building between the Engine 1 and Engine 2 was moved back about 6 feet. So, the doors were caved down. The tanker stall had caved in on the tanker. So, I started digging, trying to find equipment. Get a chainsaw. Get whatever I could get to, to start trying to cut my way to people.”
With little resources, he began cutting a path for outside help to reach the town.
“In minutes, they were trying to get to me, trying to cut to us,” Pitts said. “I know Calhoun, Hebron and Pleasant Ridge were all coming this way. Wayne County came and they were trying to cut to us. Our first effort was to get up Feed Mill Road because we knew we had a lot of damage there. And Wayne County was trying to cut down Feed Mill Road to get to me.”
The next day, the fire department was able to free their entombed trucks.
“A track hoe that ended up here, he picked the front of the building up, we drove the trucks out,” Pitts said. “He then pulled the side off the tanker stall and we parked them in the parking lot. So, we’ve been in a parking lot ever since.”
And for almost a year, that’s where the fire department has faithfully responded to every call. But that will be changing pretty soon.
In fact, they are expecting to move into their brand new firehouse later this month.
“Well it’s a 50-by-130 foot. It’s five bays, where we only had three bays [before]. It’s going to consist of an office, a meeting room, bathroom, full kitchen,” Pitts said. “Where if something like this happens again and if we survive, we’re going to be able to have a place to stay if it gets our house or our members’ houses.”
And while he hopes that never happens again, the town of Soso can rest assured that Pitts and his volunteers will always be there to answer the call.