PARADIS, Louisiana — Michelle Guidry took cover inside a restaurant bathroom with her two daughters as a tornado hit Paradis Saturday.
As the sirens blared and the building shook around them, all she could do was pray.
“I had my arms around my babies and I was just praying, ‘God, don’t let us die. Don’t let us die in here. Please, Jesus, don’t let us die in here,” she said.
In less than five minutes, the tornado tore down power lines, ripped trees from the ground and peeled roofs off of buildings. Throughout it all, Guidry and her children were safe.
“It had to be my mama,” she said. “Something said ‘pull over, don’t leave, pull over,’ because if I had left we would have been on the highway in that and it would have flipped us.”
Most of the damage was contained to the area around Highway 90 and 306. Parish President Matthew Jewell said that there were no injuries reported as for Saturday evenings and that the parish’s emergency operations center deserves credit for that.
“We’re very blessed to have those sirens in St. Charles Parish and we are very adamant about using them when we have inclement weather,” Jewell said.
It was those sirens that sent Pastor Joseph Zien into St. John the Baptist Catholic Church as the tornado touched down just outside its doors.
The storm blew out his car window and flipped the trailer he’s been living in since Hurricane Ida, but as soon as the tornado passed, help arrived. A crowd of parishioners came to get his trailer upright and clear the debris inside and outside the church.
It’s a familiar, but welcome sight for the church that was still recovering from Hurricane Ida.
“Back to square one, you know?” Zien said. “We just repaired the rectory and the office and then the roof here … back to square one.”
But even with the work ahead, Zien and Guidry are just thankful to be alive.
“We got angels,” Guidry said. “That’s all I can say. We got angels.”