NEW ALBANY – Johanna Manning saw a bright, glowing sunrise early Wednesday morning.
Only it was coming from the north, and not the east.
Manning, of New Albany, had turned south on Highway 15 at about 5:30 a.m. when she saw the explosion at the JNS Biodiesel plant.
“I had dropped off my son in Tupelo and had just turned south when I saw it in my rearview mirror,” she said.
A bright red light had flashed and grew steadily, catching her eye.
Then it developed into a giant mushroom cloud.
“I’ve never seen anything like it before – it looked like something from the movies,” she said.
Manning didn’t feel or hear anything, but she thought the explosion had happened at either the Pilot Travel Center or the Shell gas station across from it. Both sit near the Highway 15 and U.S. Highway 78 interchange.
“The explosion was so big, that’s why I thought it was one of them,” she said.
Manning was about to turn around to see what happened when she thought better.
“I heard my baby girl and realized there was nothing I could really do to help,” she said. “My parental instinct overrode my curiosity instinct.”
Manning and her daughter got back home around 5:38 a.m. and could see easily see the smoke from the raging fire that blanketed the sky. At 2 p.m., she could still see smoke rising.