Reading, Teaching, Learning

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Slice of Life - 1974 Tornado



I loved participating in the March SOLSC.  I'm so glad we have Tuesday Slice of Life all year!  I have a few more memories I'd like to write about before I focus on other things.


  
Cincinnati

Lebanon, OH

Lebanon, OH

Mason Church of Christ

Mason, OH (Sherman Terrace neighborhood)

Lebanon, OH

Mason, OH

Xenia High School

Xenia, OH

Xenia, OH

APRIL 4, 1974: Tornado Victims Search Debris along Pisgah's Mowbray Drive.
Pisgah, OH

Xenia, OH

     It is hard to believe 40 years have passed since the April 3rd, 1974 tornadoes struck southwest Ohio and many other areas of the Midwest and Southern states.  My mother and I were talking about it on the phone a couple weeks ago when we were discussing my March memory slices.  I knew I wanted to write a slice about it, and since the anniversary was just last week, now seemed like the perfect time.
     When reading about it and watching videos in preparation for this slice, I realized one of the devastating aspects of the storm was that no one realized it was going to hit.  Weather radar was not nearly as sophisticated as it is now, and weathermen couldn't predict the magnitude of what came to pass.  In fact, they learned a lot from the 1974 tornadoes that they used for improvement of weather warning systems.  
     I was seven years old at the time, and I have sketchy memories of the event.  The tornadoes hit in the late afternoon/evening, so mom and I were at home.  At that time, we had a large bay window in our kitchen eating area that overlooked our back acreage (it was later remodeled into double doors leading out to a deck).  It was a beautiful view.  We had a backyard festooned with maples, oaks, and evergreens.  A bird feeder marked the middle of the yard, complete with cardinals, blue jays, chickadees, woodpeckers, and finches.  In April the yard would have displayed its full glory - lime green leaves emerging, grass beginning to get long and fragrant, dandelions popping up, and forsythia bushes blooming.  That day, however, dark and ominous clouds were roiling in the sky, wind whipped up a furious cacophony of branches clanging, and not a bird was in sight.  In my memory, I saw two twisters in the distance out that window.  Mom doesn't remember that, but she does remember watching in fascination before realizing that she needed to get us, the dogs, and cats down to the basement immediately.  I was almost disappointed when we had to leave that Wizard of Oz view to descend into the depths of the house.  I did start to get worried about the animals.
     Meanwhile, my dad was driving home from Cincinnati.  Unbeknownst to us, he was outrunning tornadoes, debris whipping up and hitting his windshield as he sped through the streets.  He stopped at our friends' house, the Shortens, to make sure they were okay.  Later, they recalled hearing a train-like sound that evening when the tornado raced through Mason.  He continued home to us; Mom remembers him acting like he was in shock, numbed and shaken by the experience of driving through this horrific moment in history.
    The tornadoes in Mason mostly hit toward town.  We were spared any major damage out on Brewer Road.  I am mostly unscathed by the memory and am not particularly scared of storms today.  However, I do remember the terrible devastation around our area afterward, feeling awful and sad at all the homes, churches, schools, and neighborhoods that were scarred.  My heart went out to friends and neighboring communities who were affected terribly.  There is a lot to be said, though, about the human spirit in disasters like the tornadoes of 1974.  People rebuild and give their time to others, families re- inhabit their neighborhoods, and communities salvage their churches, businesses, and schools.  1974 is but a distant memory in our thriving community now.  I pray nothing like that ever happens again.

18 comments:

  1. It is hard to imagine the devastation, unless you've been a witness to a tornado. One narrowly missed my house when I was a kid. You have included such specific details, this is a great mentor text.

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    1. Storms of this magnitude are just unbelievable. Sometimes we seem so fragile compared to Mother Nature!

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  2. You made the day of that disaster vivid with your writing. I hope I never hear the wind whistling like a freight train.

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  3. Oh, I remember this, too...but we were in Columbus and did not experience as much damage. It was all so sad. I do remember a tornado in Toledo...and yes, there is that train sound...and it is the season...so hopefully it will be kind to all of us this year after such a brutal winter. Thanks for this post...and the pictures and video, too.

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    1. I agree, Jackie - with all the winter storms the country has suffered, I, too, hope spring is gentle.

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  4. Wow! Tornadoes are my biggest fear...besides water! Those pictures are horrific. Living in Indiana we have had our share too. I pray that lives are spared as we enter this season in the next few weeks,

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    1. Yes, Indiana sure has its share of tornadoes! I share that prayer, Leigh Anne.

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  5. Beautiful post. So well written. This brought back memories and gave me a template to express my own thoughts in a month or so. I've been wanting to do a memoir of what I remember from 3 years ago. I was raised in Joplin, MO, and my parents lost their home of 33 years in the 5/22/11 tornado here. Although I lived elsewhere at the time personally, and lost no family members, my town and neighborhood were- and still are- devastated. Your ending gave hope that time will heal those wounds in my hometown, too. Well said.

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    1. Thank you, Katy. Oh wow - I'm so sorry about your parents' loss. Have you ever read The Big Wave by Pearl S. Buck? It's a beautiful book about healing and courage after a devastating storm.

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  6. Wow! Tornadoes seem so scary. I have never experienced one and never want to. Hurricanes are bad enough along with earthquakes. Your writing of the event was so real. Thank you for sharing it.

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    1. Your experience with earthquakes lately are just as scary! Every region has its risks and beauty.

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  7. The devastation that so many people felt during that time is almost more than I can grasp. Thanks for sharing your memories with us. I enjoyed the reference to The Wizard of Oz, especially since it was one of my favorite movies as a child.

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    1. I always think of The Wizard of Oz when I think of tornadoes!

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  8. My middle school was destroyed in a tornado and school ended for me that year, Holly, in Kansas City. It too was a bad tornado, & I remember being in the basement, wondering what was happening. I was awful. I'm glad your dad was okay-that must have been terrible. You wrote it well, with those personal details.

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    1. Oh wow, Linda. Storms swept through many states that year. How awful that your middle school was destroyed.

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  9. You are so right about the human spirit in disasters. I should write about the flood of 1979 that flooded our house 5 feet. I remember the footage because it didn't reach the tops of our closets. It was a major disaster but what I remember most is the human spirit, the generosity of neighbors and friends, and the meaning of family. As a 17 year old I learned what is really important has very little to do with material things.

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  10. You captured that day so well all the way down to your mom watching in fascination. As we headed for the storm cellar, my mom was always begging my dad to stop looking and come on down. I hated going to my aunt's storm cellar. I was always more afraid of the spiders and snakes and dampness than I was of the tornado. And then I experienced my own tornado as a college student in the 70's. Glad WA doesn't have them, but we do live with the fear of earthquakes and landslides.

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