Tussiona Mikell was at the cashier's register inside a Dollar Tree in Joplin, Missouri, when a friend called her to tell her a storm was approaching. Mikell lives 12 miles from Joplin, in Neosho, Missouri, and was in town just to get a few items.
Then, the sirens started blaring.
The alerts were saying a tornado was headed straight down the street. Mikell took a split-second to make a decision. At first, she was going to head to the Walmart nearby, but she was afraid she might get caught trying to make it.
The Dollar Tree cashier said "Well, we have a freezer here, we normally go into the cooler when something like this happens," Mikell told CNN. "They were telling everyone, 'Get to the back, get to the back.' We rushed into the coolers and we could just hear everything on the outside, but we couldn't see what was happening."
Mikell and five others waited out the storm in the cooler.
"We could just hear things caving in but we couldn't see what was going on," she told CNN. "There was a lot of calling on Jesus. People were crying, saying different things. I was calling out 'Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.' "
Finally, after about 45 minutes, the group tried to make their way out of cooler. But it wouldn't budge.
"The ceiling fell down and blocked the freezer," Mikell recalled. "Everyone was trying to push to get (the door) cracked open. But we couldn't get it wide enough to get us out."
The group all tried pulling out their cell phones - but couldn't call for help. They had no service.
Then, the smell of gas started to pour into the freezer, Mikell said. The group feared the stores gas line had broken.
With the walls of the store mostly destroyed around them, they were able to see through the crack they had made in the freezer and shouted to a passerby for help.
"Everything else around was destroyed," she said. "We were hollering, 'Help, help, we're stuck.' "
Two people helped pry open the freezer and Mikell and the others were able to make their way out of the shelter.
That's when Mikell heard about the massive damage and injuries at Walmart.
"There was so much debris," Mikell said, recalling what she first saw when she stepped outside. "When I came out, everything was demolished. It's unbelievable."
The parking lot was littered with overturned cars and rubble. The exterior was damaged and according to witnesses, the damage was massive, Mikell said.
"How blessed I was not to even go over there," she said. "It was a disaster over at Walmart. When I think about the quick choice I made, it makes me shake."
Despite being a little sore and achy from being cramped into the partially collapsed store freezer, Mikell is profoundly thankful that she was able to even speak with CNN Monday.
"I'm alive and I'm so grateful," she said.