Tell Your Story
Did you or someone you know live through the tornado? Submit your story to firstname.lastname@example.org and we may post it here.
Linda Handy Mosman
My parents (Walt Handy and Carolyn Vetter Handy) were born and raised in Topeka, circa 1935, and graduated from Topeka High School together in 1953. Both sides of my family were around the Topeka/Lawrence/Leavenworth area so I know the area quite well. My parents were married in 1955 and my Dad took a management job in Fremont, Nebraska in approximately 1957. I was born in Fremont during this little excursion to Nebraska in April of 1959. However, before winter of that year my parents decided to move back to Topeka and I have always considered it my home town. My Dad took a job as advertising person/part-time reporter at the Cap-Journal when we returned to Topeka. We had a small house on Anderson Terrace just across Gage Boulevard and the Zoo. I went to Gage Elementary School. Right after I had started First Grade at Gage in 1965, my Dad was offered a job in Florence, Alabama as an Advertising Manager, which he eventually took. We moved over Christmas.
Mom and Dad found out quickly that, even though we were in the extreme northern part of the state, some places in Alabama were “still fighting the War”. It was explained to Dad, by many a native southerner, exactly what a “carpetbagger” was and how they were perceived. Topeka, oddly enough, was a sore spot with many people my parents encountered.via Brown vs. the Board of Education. My Mom was working temporarily at THS in the office right after they graduated so she was very familiar with it (as are most Topekans).
By the time school ended in Alabama in 1966, my Mom had found a fellow “refugee” from Topeka. A lady in our neighborhood was from Topeka originally and her parents were still there. They decided to drive back to Kansas together right after school ended. My Dad wasn’t able to make the trip with us because of his job. We packed up in their station wagon and left for “home” around June 1st (two young mothers, and five kids all under the age of 9).
My Mother’s birthday was June 7th. It was the usual family fare, complete with homemade ice cream from the crank tub. Everyone had a good time, but I remember it being incredibly hot (especially since I was the “kid” and did most of the cranking). My Grandfather (John A. “Dutch” Vetter) had very recently retired from Southwestern Bell after 51 years (he had started at 15 with the first road crews setting poles in Western Kansas — and yes, he lied about his age). My Grandmother (Evelyn Jordan Vetter) didn’t work full time, but was in charge of the kitchen at the Masonic Temple downtown (where the Judicial Building is now). On the day of the tornado Mom, Grandma, Grandpa and I were up at the Temple setting some things up in the kitchen and banquet room for something they were having soon. My Grandma’s sister and her husband (Harry Bozarth and Esther Jordan Bozarth) lived over on Armaugh within sight of White Lakes.
They were also up at the Temple with us that day, along with Mr. and Mrs. Eslie McAtee (her first name was Eileen). I was running around the building as usual, it being my most favorite place in the world. The huge velvet curtains and large high-ceiling rooms made quite an impression on me. All of my family was very active in the Masonic order, with my Grandpa being a 32nd degree Mason in Scottish Rite. At suppertime Mom thought it was time for us to get back to Grandma and Grandpa’s house (1274 SW High) so we could eat and I could have the obligatory bath and bedtime. Aunt Esther and Uncle Harry, and I believe the McAtee’s, stayed at the Temple. When we got home, Grandpa stayed outside for the longest time, and wouldn’t let me come out with him. This would have been around 5 o’clock or so. When he came in, my Grandma already had the TV on and weather reports were on. I don’t remember much of them because my Mom kept distracting me in the kitchen.
At some point my Grandpa came up out of the basement with a funny looking radio in his hand. He said it was his “team phone”. He had been a crew chief at Bell, and as he had so recently retired he still had some of his old equipment. He was talking to someone off and on, but would mostly listen. After dinner, we were trying to relax but couldn’t. Mom said no bath because of the storm, which thrilled me to no end. The sounds over Grandpa’s phone were almost constant by now, and he kept going back and forth to the basement. I do remember clearly Grandpa talking to someone on that radio, and within seconds he told us we were going down to the basement. The sirens went off at nearly the same time. I was a little scared, but had heard the stories at school about Chief Burnett and the Pottawatomi, so going to the basement was just a formality for me.
Grandpa told me that a tornado was around Topeka, and just to be sure he wanted me to sit on the chair he had set up in the corner of the basement. After a few more words were exchanged over his team radio, Grandpa physically stood me up and started stacking snow tires around me that he had moved from the garage to the basement “just in case”. I felt a little silly, but even more scared, as snow tires came over my head and encircled me. At first, I wasn’t as afraid of the tornado as I was the silly little spiders that had made homes in the snow tires Grandpa had stacked over me. Here I was, standing straight up in a cylinder of tires and all I could think about was GET ME AWAY FROM THESE SPIDERS.
When we heard the tornado approach, I couldn’t see anything but Mom and Grandpa were looking out the basement windows and giving an abbreviated “blow by blow” (the abbreviated part being for my benefit, I’m sure). When I heard the sounds, though, all thoughts of spiders left my head. I was convinced I was going to be completely swept up in it, and we were all going to crash land in some field somewhere (that being my only experience with tornadic activity up to that point…God bless the National Media). After it passed, and the house hadn’t come down around us, we came up. I remember my first thought as Grandpa opened the basement door was I was expecting to see blue sky. I don’t know why, but I fully expected the entire neighborhood to be gone. As an eight-year-old things were very “black and white” — you’re in a tornado, you either die or your house is gone, or both. Remembering the feeling now I think it was a little like culture shock coming out of that basement. Even though everything was okay in our block (even the roses were still blooming on the trellis), that wasn’t what I expected to see. Immediately following that was something that I remember vividly, hadn’t experienced before, and haven’t since (for which I’m grateful).
The complete silence overwhelmed me. I know I felt like everything and everyone had stopped breathing at the same time. It didn’t even seem permissible to talk. Not a breath, not a beat, not a murmur. Again looking back and thinking about it again, we were all just waiting for the second shoe to drop. The silence felt like it lasted forever, but before long a collective sigh erupted and we started hearing police and ambulance sirens in the distance. Within 30 minutes or so of us coming up out of the basement, amazingly enough our telephone rang. It was my Dad calling from Alabama wanting to know how we were. My Mom was more amazed that he got through than the fact that he called so quickly! He had gotten a call from one of my Great-Aunts who lived in Birmingham, Alabama. Her husband had heard about the tornado where he worked, and called her knowing we were up in Topeka. We were all okay, but didn’t know about anyone else yet.
My Grandpa took off in his car, with his radio, and went to my Dad’s parents house on Collins (near 10th Street, I think) to check on them, and then to the Temple to check on everyone there. He had to walk in to the Temple because the road was jammed up. Everyone at the Temple made it to the basement, and managed to get out okay, but the Temple was damaged and their cars were destroyed. Again, with eight-year-old eyes the building seemed perfectly fixable to me. However it was torn down as “damaged and dangerous”. I cried for days over the loss of that building.
As a family, on both sides, we survived with little to no damage, and no injuries. My Grandpa disappeared for four or five days as I remember, and Grandma said he was helping down at Bell with some of the desk and relay work so some of the younger guys could go out with the crews. I saw him a couple of times, but only as he came in for a thermos of coffee and left again. My Grandma, Mom and Great Aunt cooked almost constantly after the tornado, and would leave the house with the food packed in tins and boxes. I have no idea where they took the food, but I assume it was either to the crews or to the Bell building. My Grandma and Great Aunt have since passed away, and my Mom’s memory has faded about some of what took place. I remember helping my Mom pick up sticks and things in ours, and neighbors, yards, and I was able to see the Capitol and Temple, but we did no “sight seeing”. My Grandpa said that was disrespectful when so many people had lost everything and we were so lucky. How lucky we were was not apparent to me until a friend of my Dad’s sent us the pictorial the Cap-Journal did. None of my Alabama friends believed me about being in the tornado, until Dad let me show them the booklet. My mom simply looked at it and cried.
My Dad drove up from Alabama about a week and a half after the storm and picked up Mom and I. Her traveling buddy had decided to stay in Topeka all summer and help her family get on their feet again. She said they didn’t lose everything, but it was as close as she would ever want to some. I don’t remember the name of the family we traveled with, but I wish I did.
I never really had bad dreams about the experience, but as I read your book so many things came back to me, and some things were reinforced. I did finally read something that reminded me at a base level I was a survivor — to this day I am completely incapable of sleep until I watch the Doppler radar screens and know that the storm has passed.
On 6/8/66, I was a month away from turning 14. We lived with my Grandmother Tillotson at 1321 MacVicar, where 14th St. dead-ends. So the tornado missed us by 4-5 blocks. We were in the basement (now discredited s.w. corner, of course), with a transistor radio; after reading the book, I believe it was Bill Kurtis whose voice we heard as we listened [to the radio]. Of course, we could not see the funnel. Afterward, our yard was full of home insulation; a curtain hook was driven through a wooden trellis on the front porch; and a portion of some child’s report card from somewhere in s.w. Topeka ended up in our front yard. (I remember, because the part that fell into our yard showed some distinctly less-than-perfect grades.) The next day we trudged over to the north side of 17th St. to look at Washburn, my mother’s and father’s alma mater (and the alma mater of about everyone in my family, from a grandfather and great-aunts in the early 1900s-on…though my brother and I chose to go to college elsewhere). I did yard work for Elisabeth Van Schaack, on the faculty at WU, and a friend of my parents. She lived on the 1800 block of Wayne (I think…don’t think it was 1900). Her house was generally intact, but her yard was a mess. My mother volunteered my labor for all day on June 9–without pay! I was most annoyed, but, of course, it was the right thing to do. I went to Topeka H.S. with Irma Hillebert and Tom Cofran. Irma was in my class (1970), we played in band together, and I believe I took her to the jr. prom. I may have known that she survived the storm at MacVicar Chapel, but if so, I’d forgotten. Amazing, to find the names of people I knew. My great-aunt in Denver was able to reach us through a ham radio operator, to find out if we were all right–don’t recall the story of how other family members checked in. One memory I have, but now wonder if it’s faulty, and I have the timing wrong. I *thought* that the KS Conference of the Methodist Church was meeting in Topeka on June 8, at the city auditorium. My mother had volunteered–we were members of First Methodist–to drive delegates to their various hotels when evening meetings were over. My recollection is that she did that, disappearing into the night while my brother and father and I waited, anxiously, for her to come home. But I wonder if memory is distorted, since nothing about the Methodists appears in the book. My Grandmother Tillotson’s childhood home, at 1329 Topeka Avenue/Boulevard, was taken by the tornado. She hardly ever spoke of the house, so I don’t know if it held sentimental value for her or not. (She died in 9/1965.) But it was significant to me that the house was destroyed. Anyway, it truly is remarkable to read about an event, in such blow-by-blow detail, like the Topeka tornado. I *especially* realize how lucky we were to live where we did. One can read all sorts of books about terrible events in big cities like Chicago, Atlanta, or New York, but it is rarer to find books concerning a place as nondescript–to much of the population of the U.S., I mean–as Topeka. Much *was* lost in the tornado, like Central Park and its neighborhood. Before my parents and I moved in with my grandmother in 1955, we’d lived in a rented house on Byron. It’s still there, but that whole central area of Topeka never fully recovered. I suppose that there would have been flight from the inner parts of the city, out into the county, anyway, but I have often thought that the tornado damaged Topeka in a permanent way, and truly hastened the demise of some older, established (if not grand) neighborhoods.
Dr. Robert C. Snyder
Windy recitals are not uncommon at MacVicar Chapel, music building of Washburn University of Topeka, but the destructive tornado we experienced June 8, 1966 can claim no previous equal. Visions of swirling dirt and ruined party dresses now crowd out the memories of eager pre-concert planning which seemed so innocent weeks before. Second semester at our household had been exceedingly hectic. Jackie, my wife, had taken on a new job teaching third grade at Linn Elementary School and I, instructor of flute at Washburn, played two more solo flute recitals than usual for the year.
In late May, summer vacations threatened to reduce the available students who could participate in our annual preparatory student recital, so we had to set a date early in June. Since Washburn graduation ceremonies terminated the semester on June 5 and I planned to resume study on a doctorate degree at the Kansas City Conservatory of Music June 13, the week of June 6 looked free and flexible. We picked Wednesday June 8 for the above reasons and because it provided two additional weeks for preparation and organization.
The Wednesday evening of the recital arrived with moderately cloudy skies and reports of tornados northwest of Topeka near Clay Center. Normally, tornado clouds travel slowly northeastward, and certainly by the time the Clay Center storm system would have traveled eighty miles (distance to Topeka) the center should have been in Nebraska.
When the well-dressed students arrived at MacVicar with their parents, they were surprised to find that the Piano Guild Auditions were still in progress upstairs in the Chapel. Mrs. Dalton, chairman of the guild auditions came out of the door and announced that they would be finished very soon. She carried a large portable transistor radio in her hand. Although it was on, it was not speaking very clearly or loudly. She must have brought it to check on the weather.
I hollered downstairs for everyone to come up so we could get started. Programs were passed out and the 13 students, aged about 10 to 17 took their places near the front of the auditorium. Forty parents, relatives, and friends settled near the center of the hall. Jean Tarnower had just built up courage to start the program when the dreaded siren sounded over the tree tops from the still-intact Central Park Elementary School. Tornado Warning. Without hesitation I suggested moving the recital to a basement room until the storm passed.
Storm experts recommend strongly that one take shelter in the southwest corner of the basement, but at MacVicar Chapel that meant a room where the piano was badly out of tune. The big northeast room held the most promise because it contained enough chairs to seat everyone. I struck a few notes on the piano and decided that it too was too far out of tune to use for a recital. As a last resort, fathers and brothers transferred the chairs from the northeast room to my teaching studio in the southeast corner of the basement. Although my studio piano played slightly flat, the students liked the familiar surroundings.
Jean Tarnower played the Dorothy Dance and everyone forgot for a moment where he was. When she finished, Ralph Drayer placed his bassoon support strap on a chair, turned to the piano, and had played one-half of his solo when the atmosphere outside the partly opened window suddenly changed.
Light rain turned to horizontally driving ugly black dirt. Cool breezes changed to a pounding roaring wind. The lights went out and everyone in the room trembled in terror. We tried to find something to hide under. I urged Tom Cofran to crawl under the corner desk; Gilbert Boodger hurried under the piano bench; Tom Targownik sheltered Freda Peterson. Somehow Mrs. Hillebert and Mrs. Fletcher grabbed Roy Hillebert’s legs both for consolation and to keep the wind from sucking him out the window. Kathy Frye, Laurie Grimshaw and Tina Wallerstein hid near their parents. Karmin Williams, Janice Fletcher, and Irma Hillebert scrambled to safety under the nine-foot grand piano with Jackie. She pressed close to Ralph who protected his bassoon by lying face down on top of it. I crouched nearby under the same giant piano with my arm covering Susie Moffet.
The whirling winds smashed out the fragile window glasses and piled heavy school desk-chairs on top of parents. They had prostrated themselves on the floor in the corner opposite the piano where most of their children cowered, and tried to stay away from the wind. Blackness devoured the sunlight from the windows and swallowed all hope of escape. Dirt, pebbles, plaster dust and all hell broke loose when the tornado engulfed the Chapel. The building broke apart just as two pairs of parents vanished running into the hallway. The hall ceiling crashed to the floor soon after.
Giant stones from the three-foot thick walls plummeted nearly three stories into the window wells, the yard nearby, and office space. Clouds of miniscule refuse raced across the room pelting faces and soft bare arms and legs. The hurricane-like gale outside suddenly reversed direction, blew straight west in a crescendo of torments beyond comprehension or narration.
It felt like my head would explode. My ears were bursting and for a moment I was deaf. Some people in the room reported overwhelming roaring noises, while others like me heard nothing but complete silence. Only when the soot and filth settled did we realize that the worst had passed and the storm was over.
With the welcome passing of the black tornado came an immediate lightening of the air and instant blue sky. Roy Hillebert pulled up a window frame although the glass was gone and helped others lift frightened children and mothers outside onto the rock-strewn lawn.
Drs. Grimshaw and Wallerstein looked for the injured as soon as they had checked on their own children, and found to their surprise that almost everyone was whole, although two were badly cut. Mrs. William Tarnower suffered numerous cuts on her legs and forehead when the transom glass over the door exploded onto her, and Mark Drayer exhibited large cuts over his right ear and arm. Mrs. Tarnower needed emergency attention, so I ran outside to find my car.
Between Morgan Hall and MacVicar my station wagon sat windowless and badly dented, but upright. I started the motor and signaled for Mrs. Tarnower to get in. Although the wipers didn’t work, I managed to clear enough glass to see where we were going. College Street had trees lying across the street, so I had to jump a few curbs and drive through some yards to get around them.
Soon after I left, a college student took Howard Drayer to Stormont Vail Hospital where news photographers were standing by. His picture entering the hospital appeared in several newspapers and Life Magazine.
Several parents stayed behind to collect musical instruments and clothing from my ravaged room and helped the remaining people climb out the windows. Some of the cars in front of the Chapel were operable, some were not, but none had windows. My trunk lid looked as though someone had stood close by and shot holes into it with a 22 caliber rifle.
The parents who had gone out the door into the hall escaped down a narrow hallway to the only other basement room which was not filled with tons of stone. Their European war experiences had taught them that a doorway provides exceptionally good cover in air bomb attacks. They have now added to their terrifying list of war experience the effects of tornadic wind. Oh yes, and by the way, upon returning to Washburn Campus from the hospital, my car’s four tires went flat.
When we looked around the building, we discovered that the basement room we first considered for the recital had filled up with Mr. Everett Fetter’s grand piano, desk, chairs, from the first floor office above it. The second room filled up with Mr. Hedberg’s floor and furniture. Although we hadn’t thought about using the room under James Van Slyke’s office, it too filled up with stones from the walls and furniture. There were only two rooms where we could have survived and my basement office was one of them.
I find myself pondering why, in the face of such opposition, I was driven to schedule our recital on Wednesday.
We had four distinct religious groups present in our room that evening. The building was falling around us, everybody’s faith soared, and a profound ecumenical spirit filled the room. Shall we dare to say it protected us with a perfect shield impregnable even by Topeka’s first and Kansas’ most gargantuan tornado? Thank you for exhibiting immeasurable cool-headedness and truly inspired faith in each other.
Families in attendance:
- Dr. and Mrs. Robert Wallerstein and Nina
- Dr. and Mrs. Targownik and Tom
- Dr. and Mrs. Grimshaw and Laurie
- Dr. and Mrs. Tarnower and Jean
- Mr. and Mrs. Howard Drayer and Ralph
- Mr. and Mrs. Roy Hillebert and Irma
- Mr. and Mrs. Cofran and Tom
- Mrs. Naomi Frye and Kathy
- Mr. and Mrs. Goodger and Gilbert
- Mr. and Mrs. Peterson and Freda
- Mr. and Mrs. Williams and Karmin
- Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher and Janice
The events of that evening stick in my mind even to this day, as if it was yesterday. I don’t remember much of the day itself, except that I was unusually agitated, as if something horrible was about to happen. It broke that afternoon when a tornado watch was announced. I remember crying out in fear, but told to keep quiet.
Looking back, if we had stayed home where we lived in the Potwin area, we would have missed it. But my brother was to play his bassoon in a recital that evening at the old MacVicar Chapel in Washburn University.
That building had always spooked me. I walked by it countless times on the way to football games at Moore Bowl, and shied away from it, especially from the open stairwell leading to the basement. And it was to that place that we were to go that evening.
I remember dressing for the event and hearing my brother practice his bassoon piece, called “Allegro Spiritoso.” The Batman show was playing on the TV and how I wished I could have stayed to watch it. But we had to get ready.
Finally, we were off. On the way, my dad almost turned back. The sky was simply brutal, green and bumpy with mammatus clouds. We parked that 1962 Ford Fairlaine in the parking lot at Stoffer Science Hall. I always remember liking the geology displays in the building. It started to rain as we went around the sidewalk to the entrance of MacVicar Chapel, a building I had never been in before, and had spooked me for years. As we went up the stairs to the entrance, the sirens sounded. I cried out for fear again, wanting to go back. But we went in. My dad and brother went inside the sanctuary to tell them of the sirens going off while we went downstairs to the basement, soon followed by the rest who were attending the recital. We were all standing in the hallway while they looked for a room to hold a recital. I instinctively looked over to the southwest room, but it looked too small, I was sure it was just a broom closet. I found out later that the room had an old out of tune upright piano, and the room was rejected for the studio room which had a better piano, a grand piano.
We set up in student desk chairs and the recital resumed. I thought the first number we heard very ominous, a clarinet piece called “Dorothy’s Dance.” I was thinking of what happened to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. The piece was over, then Ralph came to play his bassoon piece, the one we later said brought the house down.
While he was playing, I happened to look up out the south window, and saw what I thought at first was birds flying around. But it soon showed itself as a tornado, just over Carnegie Hall. I wondered why nobody else noticed it as it approached. The wind picked up and dirt obliterated the sight at the window. Finally a leaf blew in from under the window and the leader of the recital saw it, telling us all to lay down as the power went out. Ralph got under the piano and I got under the desk chair, a poor shelter as I found out later. I foolishly looked up to see what would happen.
The east windows exploded inwards with incredible violence, then…nothing. It disappointed me. Later, I wondered about that silence that happened for what seemed to be an eternity, not a puff of wind, not a sound, except for windows shattering elsewhere in the building. Could it have been we were inside the funnel at the time, experiencing the calm people know in the eye of a hurricane? It could be possible, as several testify they were struck twice by the tornado.
But then, all hell broke loose. My dad said he saw all those desk chairs rise up in the air and start to circulate around the room. It happened so fast, and I found myself sitting up, facing the opposite direction, with dirt and debris hitting my face. I was being pushed back by the winds. The sound of the winds were terrible, like a giant vacuum cleaner, with a strange vibrating sound like a jet plane straining against the sound barrier. I came to my senses then and dived between two girls for shelter. I heard one of them saying “He’s bleeding,” or something like that.
It finally calmed down and the howling ceased. We all got up and I anxiously looked up at the roof, afraid it would cave in any minute. But it looked intact. There was no getting out the door as it was blocked. It looked like an expert stonemason had bricked it up from top to bottom.
I then looked down at my shirt, and it was soaked with blood. Now was the time for me to be afraid. We climbed up out the window at the south, and the chairs were all piled against the south wall. As I looked over as we went out, that open stairway was filled with stone. I was almost happy to see it. The displays at the nearby Stoffer Science Hall were shattered, and the place around me looked so unreal. Trees were twisted in a strange way. We went around, dodging debris and downed power lines to the parking lot at Stoffer. There we saw cars piled in a big heap. Our car was one of three left there, but though it could start, we couldn’t get out due to downed power lines. I remember seeing a house across the street looking like a doll house, as the whole front of it had been stripped away. Somebody was standing on the second floor looking down. One of the doctors looked at me and said the injuries were not internal and not serious. It seemed serious to me. I didn’t know that scalp wounds bled so much.
Finally, somebody came by in a Volkswagen, I remember his last name was Huey. Bob Huey, I think his name was. I still don’t know how we all fit in there, but we did, and he took us all to the emergency room at Stormont-Vail Hospital.
As I came in, somebody jumped in front and took my picture. I asked my dad if I was going to get my picture in the paper. Seems I did, and it later ended up in Life Magazine together with Rick Douglass’ picture. Everybody gets their fifteen minutes of fame, but I still wish that hadn’t been one of them.
I was treated with stitches. They were more worried about a wound on my right arm near my elbow which went deep than the one on the side of my head. But they stiched me up. The others in my family had cuts and bruises. My sister had been covered by my mother when the tornado struck, but she stuck out her leg and it got sandblasted.
We walked home from the hospital, grateful to be alive, with me talking a mile a minute. When we got home, my mom called my grandmother telling her we were all right. She said “What do you mean.” She thought we had stayed home, and cried to find out that we had been at Washburn during that terrible storm.
It was a frightful experience for all of us, but really, we were the lucky ones. Others fared far worse. And we will never forget that evening of June 8, 1966.
(The famous picture of Marc Drayer appears on page P27 of “And Hell Followed With It.” He is being escorted into the hospital by his father, Howard. Marc is incorrectly identified in the book as Ralph Drayer. The author regrets the error and will correct it in the next edition of the book. Marc’s brother, Ralph, whose bassoon solo at the Washburn music recital was cut short by the tornado’s arrival, can be seen in the left of the picture, just entering the hospital. Interestingly, the individuals in picture on the following page, P28, have never been identified in print but are, in fact, Mrs. Marion Drayer, Marc and Ralph’s mom, and their little sister, Lynn.)
On June 8th I was at Vacation Bible School at the Mennonite Brethren meeting house at about 18th and Fairlawn with sister Pat and brother Danny. As I colored my pictures of Jesus, I remember looking outside the classroom and seeing dark purple-black clouds gathering just south of us at “the mound” and the newly planted trees and bushes bending to the ground. There were hushed voices out in the hall and then the announcement that we were to “walk quickly” out to the driveway where we would be driven to a nearby home that had a basement. Kids piled into a big, green 1950 something behemoth and lumbered over to the home. It seemed that we spent an eternity down there crying, singing our VBS songs and praying. There wasn’t the saying of the rosary and the evocation of the saints that I was used to, but more old testament “the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” type of prayers going up. These kids knew their scriptures and I always felt a little out of place being a Catholic and not ever really studying the bible. I remember feeling comforted by having my big sister and little brother with me. Finally the “all clear” whistle was sounded and we walked up out of the basement into our changed world. A nice couple from the church took us home. I know someone must of told us that our family and home was still intact, but I remember rounding the corner and seeing our old house standing there and my mom out on the porch waiting for us and feeling such an overwhelming feeling of thankfulness and love. She had ridden the storm out with our three younger sisters, the “little girls” as we called them. Dad had come in that night from Kansas City where he had been working. As he tells it he was on needles and pins driving in for he had just canceled our home insurance policy in order to “save a few bucks.” He had talked to my mom and knew we were alright, but the fact he had played it so close to the margin with our well being made him beat himself up all the way home. The next day he took us a few blocks from our house to the old Dibble’s Plaza where the CBS trailer was parked and broadcasting. It was then that the enormity of what had happened that it began to sink into my seven year old brain. The rest of the summer was filled with stories of miracles-how our grandmas who were both crippled with cancer and arthritis where able to rise off their beds and make their way down to the basement. So many stories…