EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Difficulty eating and sleeping, as well as anxiety and depression were some of the mental health issues mentioned by a few of the Amazon warehouse survivors Tuesday as they spoke publicly for the first time since the tragedy.

On Dec. 10, 2021, an EF-3 tornado hit an Amazon delivery warehouse in Edwardsville killing six people and injuring one more. 

Federal safety investigators say Amazon’s severe weather policies in place at the time of the tornado “met minimal federal safety guidelines for storm sheltering,” but the online retailer needs to do more to protect workers and drivers in the future.

Last week, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a Hazard Alert Letter to Amazon with three findings

During Tuesday’s press conference, survivors Jamarco Hickman, Jada Williams, and Deontae Yancey, as well as Deon January, the mother of DeAndre Morrow who died during the storm, talked about their experiences that night, how they have been dealing with the aftermath, and how Amazon has treated them.

Well-known civil rights attorney Ben Crump who is representing January and other survivors in lawsuits connected to the deadly Amazon warehouse collapse, and attorney Jennifer Hightower were there in support. 

“All of their lives matter, Amazon,” Crump said. “And until you do right by them, we won’t be silent. We will continue to demand justice and accountability so we don’t have another tragedy where people die because you put profit over safety.”

January said Amazon is responsible for her son’s death who was just 28 years old. 

“It breaks my heart that DeAndre was scared to take his day off, but was called from dispatch asking him to work an extra shift,” she said. 

“He was working extra shifts and overtime in order to earn extra money for the holidays and repay me back for a car I had purchased for him. It saddens me that Mother’s Day is right around the corner and he’s not going to be here.”

January said DeAndre was required to stay at the facility after his shift had ended, “which ended up costing him his life.”

“Because of Amazon’s apathy and greed, I had to do what no mother should, bury my child. This was a tragedy that has forever changed the lives of six families,” she said.

January mentioned her son had plans to become an entrepreneur and help the homeless, open a boys and girls club, as well as operate laundromats and carwashes. 

“My son DeAndre was very respectful, honest and responsible,” she said, wiping away tears. He leaves behind two younger siblings.

Deontae Yancey said he remembers that day “way too well.” He said he started off his shift delivering packages with his coat on and by the afternoon, the weather became hot, which was “weird” to him. 

“I actually had customers who were wondering why we were still delivering packages knowing that there was a tornado coming,” Yancey said. “And I just told them ‘Because Amazon wants me to.’ ”

Around 6:30 p.m., he said he was asked to help out another driver with deliveries, but could not help as he still had many stops of his own to do. 

When the tornado touched down, there were still drivers making deliveries, Yancey said.

“If (Amazon) cared so much, they should have recalled all drivers, and all Amazon associates before the tornado hit and even before the warnings,” he said.

After that night of the tornado, Yancey said he had difficulty eating and getting out of bed. 

“It was basically a dream for me. I mean I thought I was going to die,” he said. “They didn’t care about any of the drivers’ lives.”

Yancey described the bathroom where people were told to take shelter as small. 

Jada Williams was out delivering packages when she noticed a change in clouds around 5 or 6 p.m. She said she called for someone to help her finish her deliveries and minutes later her cousin showed. 

This was her second week on the job, Williams said, and prior to that night, she said she did not receive much job training. Her cousin made it back to the warehouse before she did, and Williams said he urged her to get back quickly. 

“As soon as I put the van in park, the building started falling down,” she said.

Williams noted that she ran to the bathroom and “couldn’t believe what I was seeing.” She said people were screaming and crying, and the building smelled of gas. 

Williams mentioned she was trying to calm people down and eventually had an asthma attack herself. 

“Ever since that happened, I’ve barely been getting any sleep, and it’s like every time I try to go to sleep, I jump up and think about what happened in the building,” she said.

Jamarco Hickman said he had been working as an Amazon delivery driver for four months before the tornado incident. 

“I left home that day looking forward to the holidays,” he said. 

When Hickman arrived at the warehouse that night, he said he was told to go to the bathroom and was not allowed to leave. 

“I can not still shake off hearing those walls collapsing,” he said. “I was terrified, my coworkers were terrified. Stuck in the bathroom for hours until we were able to be rescued.”

“Since the collapse, I’m still struggling financially, mentally.”

Hickman said he is now in counseling for his anxiety and depression. He also mentioned that he lost his car and was fired by Amazon Jan. 1, 2022, for not having transportation for work.

“I was promised assistance. I was told Amazon would handle things. Amazon would make things right,” he said. “However, despite numerous attempts reaching out to Amazon, those were clearly false promises.”

While he worked at Amazon, Hickman said he was often contacted to rescue another driver to deliver extra packages, which would extend his shifts by a couple of hours.

“But never once that night did I get a call, a text, or an alert of any kind from Amazon warning me to be safe out there or just to stop delivering because of the incoming tornado,” he said. 

“If Amazon can contact me about making extra deliveries, Amazon can contact me when a tornado is known to be incoming.”

Hickman added, “Amazon, you have to do better because this was preventable. And please don’t let my fellow drivers die in vain.”

Other speakers during the press conference were Sen. Christopher Belt and Illinois NAACP President Teresa Haley.

To watch the full press conference, click here.