Our last night in Mississippi, there was a tornado. I had heard earlier in the day that there was a weather warning, but I didn’t pay it much heed. I think as a Calgarian, I have been desensitized to weather warnings. Around 9pm, the alarms went off. Steph and I had two friends, Jonathan and Jake over to hang out while we packed and cleaned the house in preparation to leave the next day. Sitting in the living room, the air was filled with the dissonant tones of an unearthly wailing siren from outside. An emergency text message popped up on our phones “TORNADO WARNING: SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY”. I’m so grateful that Jonathan was from Alabama, and had dealt with many tornado warnings in the past, because the rest of us were in a bit of a flap! The four of us packed into my closet, which was the closest, and on the ground floor. Down South, no buildings are built with basements because the ground is so wet, so the ground floor was the best we could do. It was pretty surreal to be hiding in a closet from a weather event that I had thus far only experienced through the Wizard of Oz. Someone had the presence of mind to grab drinks and snacks on the way out of the kitchen, and we spent the next hour sitting on the floor in my stuffy, dust-bunny filled closet. We were able to watch a real time map of the tornado's progress, and fortunately, it passed by Oxford without incident. Being mindful of maintaining the battery levels on our phones in case of emergency, we had nothing to do but...talk. It's funny to think that being trapped in a closet together, hiding from a tornado can bring you closer together as friends, but it did. We talked about silly stuff and serious stuff; the past, and the future. After an hour or so, the warning passed, we got out of the closet, watched some tv, and then parted ways.
Reflecting on that evening, I realized that I couldn't have been stuck in a closet with better people. If I could take anything away from this experience, and extend it to my entire time in Mississippi, I would say that it's all about the people. I got to do so many cool things while I was here: tailgate and cheer on the home football team, audit classes at Ole Miss, work with incredible mentors and students, visit New Orleans and Memphis, go on a swamp tour, eat amazing Southern food, and enjoy the (mostly) beautiful weather. All of these amazing experiences; however, would not have been nearly as good were it not for the people that I had the privilege of sharing them with. Strolling down Bourbon Street in New Orleans, eating homemade cornbread, cheering with 50,000 other fans, or hiding from a tornado in a closet; none of these would have been so memorable had I not shared them with friends. I am so grateful for the friends I made on this trip; for the extraordinary experiences that I had, and for the memories that will truly last a lifetime. Miss you already, Mississippi.