Monday, April 03, 2006

April 3, 1974

I'm still the campaign manager for Ralph but I wanted to do a different post for today. I still urge you to check out Ralph's site and see his fireside chat. If that doesn't win you over, then I just don't know what will!! You can go to Best of Blogger and cast your vote daily through April 6, for Ralph C.

Today's headline says "Storms Batter 8 States, Leave 23 Dead" My heart goes out to those people.

Today is a date that I always remember because on this date in 1974 our home was destroyed by a tornado. I was 19 years old. Yep, revealing my age here, but that's okay.

This is the history of that year: One of the worst tornado outbreaks ever recorded occurred in April of 1974. In a huge area covering 13 states and two Canadian provinces, 148 tornadoes touched down in a stormy 24-hour period, killing 309 and injuring 5300.
11 states were declared disaster areas. In the most active 6-hour period, over 20 reports per hour of tornadoes were received.

We lived in Madison County, KY. I was not home at the time. It's a very long story if I told everything about that night, so I won't go into it all. At that time I thought tornado's only happened in KS to folks like Dorothy and Toto. We had never had one before and I just never really gave them much thought. However that night all the conditions were right for horrible storms over a very wide area. I knew we had had a bad storm because it hailed and the wind blew so hard where I was, at a friend's house, that it screamed through the storm windows and I could not even close the front door even though there was a storm door already closed! I found out later that the tornado passed within 1/2 mile of where I was. However when I went home I went the other way and still didn't know we had had a tornado. When I got about 3 miles from home I saw someone in the road and it was my brother and nephew. They were waving me down and had walked out that far. My brother told me what happened and I just could not image it in my mind. He said that they had gotten into the storm cellar and Mom and Dad were okay. He wanted to go to check on his wife who was working 2nd shift at Westinghouse. Once we got back out on the main road I had to drive around power lines and uprooted trees where it had crossed the road. It killed 4 people in our area, 2 of which we knew. We ended up walking back in that night and the lightening was constant like those little veins of lightening all over. The church we attended was about a quarter of a mile from our house and I could see it was still standing when the lightening flashed. We walked down there and stayed the rest of the night. I spent that night praying for the most part. We were all wet and Dad wanted to go back to the house and find some blankets but I begged him not to leave so he didn't. Me, Mom, Dad, my brother and his girlfriend (his wife of many years now), spent the night there. My oldest brother, his son, and wife returned to their home which was not damaged. My other brother lived in VA at that time.

At daybreak we walked back up and I just couldn't believe the damage. Things it takes years to build are destroyed in a few seconds. We lived in a huge 2 story log home with 3 chimneys, so it was extra strong. The kitchen, living room, and one bedroom were pretty much okay except for windows blown out, etc. The barn and the tobacco stripping room were gone. The smokehouse walls were gone but the floor stayed intact and the cellar was under there. The dogs survived. We figured they had gotten into the enclosed back porch which stayed intact. Dad's pet turkey died when the walls of the smokehouse fell on him. Dad always regretted that he didn't think to bring him in the cellar with them, since he had been right there as close as he could get. Chickens were scattered and many killed and some hurt so bad that they had to be killed. Many of them roosted in the plum trees in the yard. The tractor which was parked in the barn and had a heavy plow hooked to it survived with just a bent up steering wheel and other dents. It had blown the barn down on it and then off it. I had a pony and a horse. The pony was down in the field and he was okay other than being stiff and he had a lot of knots on him but no open wounds. My Dad's car was over in the hollow behind the house and it was totalled. My brother's car was upside down on top of a blown over tree. He was able to salvage it and it was okay other than dents. Later that day my Dad took off walking and he came back with my horse. He said he found him way back on the neighbors land and he was down in a low place and probably had been blown in there. One side of him was total mud. He had a big hunk out of his nose. One eye was messed up, but he got over everything and was okay. He was so stiff he could hardly walk for days though. I often wondered what it would have been like to see the storm through his eyes!

At first I was very angry with God. I couldn't imagine how he could do that to us. I realized later how foolish that thought was. We were alive and no one had been hurt in my family! What a blessing that was. Material things don't mean a thing when you get right down to it. We come into the world with nothing and that's what we'll leave with. My anger turned into gratitude that it had not been worse than it was for us, and it didn't even compare to people who had lost loved ones. No comparison at all.

My Dad had planned to retire that year and had already bought another home, so we had a place to go to, we just had to move earlier than planned. We moved and the first thing my Dad did was build a storm cellar.


Blogger Cliff Morrow said...

Rachel, this was a riveting blog. I need to go but I just couldn't quit. I wanted to say what a horrible memory but I guess stuff like that is what makes us who we are. I'm glad you and your loved ones made it. Thank you for writing this.

10:52 AM  
Blogger Cheyenne said...

Wow, it gave me goosebumps. I have never experienced a tornado and hope I never do.
Glad you all made it through in one piece and that you had some place to go.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

You and Cliff are doing a great job for Ralph!

What a story!!!!!
Tornadoes do such unbelievble damage. I've never seen anything like what you described, except on TV. Those who lose loved ones in these storms really have the worst possible situation. It would devastate you forever.
I'm so happy you all lived to tell the tale.

2:25 PM  
Blogger Abandoned in Pasadena said...

I remember the storms of that year and I remember the very low cloud below the tree limbs approaching our house. I was very frightened and gathered the children into the house and my son had to run for his life although he did not realize at the time what was going on. He was just running as fast as he could because I was screaming for him to come at the top of my lungs and he had never heard me scream like that before. We all went to the basement and the storm went over our house. I will never forget that day of the storms.

Although there wasn't any damage other than fallen tree limbs,around our home, many people as you described in your post...including yourself...weren't so lucky. I'm glad that none of your family was hurt.

My daughter-in-law's house was completely blown away by a tornado...I'm not sure if it was this same year.

Your post had me in was very riveting and a reminder that I don't ever want to see a low cloud again. I have a recurring dream of having to run into my basement because a tornado is approaching and can't find one of the kids.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Ralph's Homespun Headlines said...

WOW. Rachel that is a great story. I have been sent to tornado areas the day after but never have experienced one. You are so right when you said,"Material things don't mean a thing when you get right down to it." Great, great post.

7:04 PM  
Blogger Janis said...

Rachel, the way you told it, I felt like I could see - even feel - it all happening. Incredible. What an amazing experience, and told so well.

My heart goes out to all those people who suffered losses - both back then and now.

7:41 PM  
Blogger The Four Bears in the Woods said...

My mother-in-law, Abandoned in Pasadena, sent me here to read your post. Your post is very sad to me and gave me goose bumps and brought tears to my eyes when I read your story. I remember that night very well. I too was in a tornado that same date in Kentucky. I was 10 years old at the time but I will never ever forget this night. I am terrified now of storms and hope that I or my kids never have to experience what I did. We lost everything in that tornado. It was terrible, but we were fortunate that none of us were hurt. My dad had just bought a farm also and it destroyed everything. We had to rebuild. I am glad to hear that all your family were okay. I just wanted to comment and tell you that I feel what you are feeling and I think about it every year and so does my family. God bless you and your family.

Mama Bear

8:34 PM  
Anonymous Judith said...

My heart goes out to all of you experiencing tornadoes. A terrible experience...I live where there are hurricanes for the most part. Take care.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Leslie Shelor said...

It was natural to be angry at first. An experience like this makes a huge impression, especially when you're young. When I was about your age we had a flood in our town, also an unexpected and rare event. Thankfully no one was badly injured but there were some losses and frightening incidents. All the best to those who have lost loved ones in this recent tragedy.

3:42 PM  
Blogger 4evergapeach said...

What a story Rachel! I can't begin to imagine living through such a thing. I'm glad you were able to see the blessing in it all. I am terrified of storms, but since having children I have gotten better, since I don't want them seeing the fear in me.

9:00 PM  

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