Back on May 9, 2005, NewsChannel 11 asked you to send us your stories of survival from the 1970 tornado. Here are the e-mails that we received from our viewers:
"KCBD wants stories of the 1970 tornado. Here's mine.
The evening of May 11th 1970, I had a date with my girlfriend Leslie who lived in the Gates dormitory on 19th street. The weather was clear and warm in the early evening, with distant clouds. We went out to eat, then back to the lobby of her dorm to watch tv. It began to rain, then the storm began to gather more and more force. I remember going out to my car for a minute, and the wind was blowing with tremendous gusts. Inside the big steel-framed girls dormitory, you really couldn't hear or feel the storm. Gates dorm on 19th is only a few hundred yards from where the roofs of houses began to be damaged, east and north 19th and University. As I sat with my girlfriend, watching tv, the lights in the dorm went out. We smooched a little while the lights out since no one could see us(dorm rules in those days were pretty strict, they even had monitors to make sure nothing unseemly happened). The lights came back within a few minutes when the TTU backup generators powered up. We began to hear on the radio what had happened. I had to drive back to my parents house in South Lubbock, since I had a curfew and was expected to be home. As I drove out of the dorm parking lot, the storm had stopped, but water was over the curbs. My little white Renault 10 car was great about not drowning out in deep water. I went over to 19th and University. The traffic lights were out, and there was a policeman directing traffic in the flooded intersection. The next day, I went driving around downtown Lubbock to view the damage. National Guard troops were out, and the area around the Great Plains(now NTS)building was barricaded. It was thought that the 20 story building might fall. A large amount of brick had indeed fallen off the North side of the building, and many windows were broken or blown out. Of course I had to go around the barricades to get a better look, but a Guardsman saw me and told me to get out of the area. My family had a friend, an attorney who was working in his office on one of the top floors of the Great Plains building when the tornado hit it, and it was really something to hear him tell how the building was swaying so hard, that he had to hold on to the stair hand rails to keep from falling as he ran for his life down more than a dozen flights. Later, engineering analysis showed that the Great Plains building was moving, at the top, by several inches or more. Must have been pretty scary up on the top floors, when it started swaying like that. The Great Plains building was vacant for years after, because it was believed by many that it might still fall. The Army Corps of Engineers did a study and found it to be structurally sound, so people eventually moved back in. When spring comes to the South Plains, and the tornado weather arrives, I sometimes remember the night of May 11 1970. I've lived in Lubbock all my life, and I've yet to see a tornado firsthand, although I definitely was close enough to a tornado that night."
"The pastor of Broadway Church of Christ came across the street to the funeral home the following day; and showed us a pin that was used in the clothes that were sold at Margaret's women store. It had been driven through a stained glass window of the church.
Yet the window was not cracked around the pin."
Marvin Porr, Jr.
"I was four years old at the time. My parents & I were over from Littlefield and were eating at a Burger Chef on Ave Q when my father became very alarmed at the weather.
So, he drove us north on Q (toward Clovis Hwy in which we came) when he realized at 19th Street that a tornado was plowing through downtown Lubbock. My dad recalls vehicles were bouncing around and debris flying everywhere.
My Dad immediately turned left and drove us out 19th to Methodist Hospital where we went in because my parents felt it was the safest place to ride out the storm.
My parents still reside in Littlefield."
John S. McAnally
"A friend and I had traveled from Plainview to Lubbock to see a movie. As we approached Lubbock, I made the comment,"I don't like the looks of those clouds." We went to the movie, and when we got out, it was raining and hailing, and the wind was blowing 60 to 70 miles per hour.
We made a dash for the car, and headed east on 19th street. (We were at the theatre on 19th Quaker). My intentions were to take University Ave. North and cut over to US 87. The wind was blowing so hard and visibility was so bad I missed my turn and stayed on 19th. I then decided to go on to Ave. Q. When we got even with Lubbock High School, I pulled into the parking lot of Blue Bonnet Cleaners, to get out of the wind. The radio announced that there were two funnels on the ground in downtown Lubbock. I later found out that one had hit at 19th and Q. Suddenly, the wind died down and it became hot and still. The radio had nothing but stattic. (I later heard that the tornado had taken out their tower).
Realizing what had happened, my friend and I decided to see what we could do to help. We drove down town and were told by a policeman that we needed to get out of the area. We told him we were volunteering to help look for survivors. He said, "Park it and follow me." We waded in waist deep water for several hours. We came upon a place where a group of people were gathered around a roof that was on the ground. We joined them and helped lift the roof off of a man, who was pinned in so tight he lost a shoe when we pulled him out. It took twenty people to lift the roof up enough to pull him out. He had a small dog that ran back under the roof just as we were about to let it down. We called out to "hold it," and my friend crawled in and retrieved the dog. I have never seen anyone so grateful in all my life. He said, "this dog is all I have left." He said he lived in a small house behind a large house. The roof of the large house was what he was pinned under.
It was two a.m. whe we got back to Plainview. God had protected us, and I didn't even have any hail dents in my car."
"May 11 1970, as a child of 9 my remembrance of the day will always be tainted by the fact I was in my fathers company when we saw the bricks and signs of , if i remember right a Fina gas station flying into a moments bit of lightning bright sky. I say tainted for one simple reason. You see at that age in those days, my dad was superman. As long as you stood near enough to the man, not a thing in the world could harm you. Not even a tornado or plural, tornados. At that time we lived in the 2000 block of 33rd street, my brothers, 3 of them, my mother and father. Mom was exactly that, a mother and housewife, doing her job well. Dad worked as a land surveyor at the now defunct Lubbock Engineering Co. Or at least that is how I remember it. My brothers and I did our job well too. I'd dare say excellent in fact. As children, we played and we played hard as was our duty.
In hearing past accounts of the day, and night of May 11, I've often wondered if my memory is incorrect or if my mother had some sixth sense. As I remember her being nervous the whole day. But, then again raising four little heathens must have been enough to make any one nervous on any given day. School, I am sure went like school always did, with me bored out of my skull and eager to escape to the aforementioned job of play. To be honest though. I do not remember the day of the week, only some few minute details.
Now my father, he had always had this way of finding tornados and pointing them out to me. Once standing on a small balcony of the Hilton Hotel in Plainview Texas. The man pointed southwest to a small ribbon, twirling down from some passing storm. I was in awe. Not of the twister, but dad's seeming ability to command the skies. He sensed it that night I am sure. Sensed the impending danger and dare I say grandeur of what was to come. As we sat in the front and backseats of the old Pontiac Catalina dad owned at that time, he pointed out to us the gathering dismal evening. Even whooping fearfully with us as a rather large dust devil seemed to slightly lift the car from the two concrete strips of driveway. For some reason, we were quickly hustled inside the house and mom hurried to make sure. Well she was making sure of something. Dad was busy moving Mom and his bed away from one wall closer to an interior wall and then slumped the top mattress off and to the non wall side. Then we were all ordered underneath the contraption.
It was dark there, with the dankness of humidity from sump air-conditioning, breath, and sweat off the four heathens. I did not like the place. After what seemed like hours mom finally spoke, and looking back it was just a few seconds time. "Jesse Jr.?" she waited till he answered "Yes?", then proceeded down through the litany of names of her children.
Now we all tell it different, the rest of the story. I'm sure that is merely a trait learned in west Texas. Story telling that is. I am the one writing this so, you are getting my version of the truth. "Ricky?", bravely, I, "what!". Not a question but a statement. Something akin to "Hey, leave me alone. I am playing.". Of course, when we each tell the story, the teller is the brave little boy with his brothers quaking voices, belying their fear. "Phillip?". Ok to be honest, I think Phillip was as excited and adventurous sounding as I. "Yeah?". "Brian?". I know he was crying, and cannot remember how he signified his presence to mom. "Jess?", "Jess?", another long pause, "Jess?". Something made a sharp hard noise in another room, and we all heard some breakable crash to the floor. Then dads favorite curse, which will go unmentioned. But it signified that dad was doing fine. Albeit, not where we were, yet fine any ways. That bugged me, and I cannot truly express why other than, dad was on safari without me.
Out from under the bed I shimmied beneath what I remember as some western styled wood railing of a footboard, and felt my way along walls through doorways, and across rooms till at last I spotted dad. There stood Superman, in kaki pants and shirt, his work boots still covered with the days dust, and I am sure a mental trick, he held a cup of coffee in his hand. With each flash of lightening I moved closer and closer to what was my child hood god. Till at last I stood firmly beside the man, watching out through wooden framed screen wiring as nature did her worst in our little world. I do not remember fear at all. Only the same awe on my father face within me. The next block over, the world changed forever. Even considering there was little damage in that area, the wall of block behind that service station still bears the scars of where it was wrest apart.
Now, It may seem as if, I belittle the destruction of those tornados which struck the Hub of the Plains, but that is not in any way how I mean it. Rather, I retain the memories of a son, a little boy, born of a grown up boy, who still to this day is my Super Hero.
Within a few hours of dawns first light, the four of us mad dash monsters had managed to slip the bonds of parental control and explore those vast wastelands to the north and east of our block. I seem to remember men in Army uniform, as well as Police and Fire-Fighters, herding traffic here and there. I remember seeing where houses and buildings had once stood. For some reason it even seems there was far, far too much water in the gutters of the streets. I recall a few days later seeing a shingle sticking through the interior wall of dads second floor office. Yes a tar and paper roofing shingle, driven right through concrete block walls. What was then named the Great Plains Life building stood awkward, bent and frayed. The First National bank, and some other bank which I have long ago forgot its former name, seemed to remind me of eerie movies I had watched where all the windows of a house are open and the curtains waft around in too much of a breeze to be real.
It was a surreal happening. Leaving only vague memories embedded upon my mind. Here and there, we would witness someone crying. Over yonder, heavy equipment already at work, attempting to clear away debris. Watching the television, which was an old black and white Philco, dad somehow kept running with quick little kicks and hard hand slaps to the side, we could witness the destruction. One strange thing though about the television, has always been, that I do not recall the then patent double "1" men standing side by side. "Hey bud what'cha looking at". It probably did run, just as usual, but I seem to have missed that.
A few years later, after we had moved to the 600 block of 31st the four of us heathens even found the remains of a paper straw in what we assumed was an old fence post. There was a perfect bore hole clean through, with what was left of that straw for evidence.
I, now sense in my older years that somehow I missed the importance of death and destruction wrought on that night. Somehow, it all took a back seat to thrill of adventure and discovery, but then again, at that age, and in those days, a child's job was to be a child."
Ricky D. Martin
April 14, 2005
"All of us but one brother were at home. I remember my Dad standing at the doorway, wanting to go out and look for my brother Benjamin. Everyone was speaking in low tones, as if to raise our voices would only incur the wrath of the storm. All of a sudden, we heard what sounded like a whistle blowing. My mother had just enough time to pull my dad from the door and shut it.
It hit hard, and it hit fast. When it was over, we all started to look for the damages. But suddenly, we realized my 7 year old brother, Robert, was missing. Panic struck as everyone began searching. We found him, in the center bathroom, with the mattress from his bed on top of him. When we asked what possessed him to do that, he said, "My teacher said we should do this if a tornado ever hit. I was just following her instructions. Did I do something wrong?"
We realized at that moment, he'd been the only one to remain calm, and THINK of what needed to be done. To this day, I tell my now grandchildren, "ALWAYS listen to your teacher. She/he could just save your life."
"I'll never forget May 11, 1970, when the tornado hit Lubbock. I was on duty as a Canine Officer in my patrol car in downtown Lubbock, on the corner of Avenue Q at Broadway. I had noticed a big, tall, towering cloud back to the Southwest, but I didn't really feel like there was anything to be alarmed about, until later.
Some patrol officers out around Jones Stadium were talking on the police radio about the wind being pretty high, when all of a sudden it dropped right out of the sky on us!
The first thing I saw go was the sign at Clark Drug. It was at this time that I notified the Police Dispatcher. If you have heard the 1st police report that came in to the police dispatcher that night, the voice you heard was mine, when I shouted, "We're hit, Lubbock, we're hit!" I could hear on the police radio that several other officers were reporting it, too.
I had my windows rolled up and the force of the tornado blew a little hole about the size of a silver dollar in the car windows and back glass window. The windshield never went. Once the hole from the outside pressure hit, it blew the glass inside the car. I had my siren on Alert and the air was full of debris of all different kinds. A garbage can hit the left front wheel and caved the fender in. The garbage can went out of sight up in the air, along with the other debris. My car blew sideways, but it never turned over. My dog, OSO, was whining and going from one side of the car to the other, and cut his feet on the glass in the backseat.
A call from the police dispatcher came in for any unit close to West Texas Hospital to go by and check to see if the hospital was still intact. So, I responded to that call. I sure did hate the thought of going by there and seeing it demolished with all the sick people inside. But it was still intact, although it did sustain quite a lot of damage.
We stayed on duty all that night rescuing people and digging out the bodies and went home the next day around 2 p.m.. Then I went back on duty at 8 p.m. and worked 12 hour shifts for several days. The hardest part that first night was not knowing if my family was OK or not. I finally got a chance to go by and check on them around 2 a.m. My daughter was one year old at the time."
"I was out riding around with a friend on that day. His parents owned Mr. BB's hamburger stand on 4th street and we had to check in and make sure that everything was going okay. The weather started getting bad so we decided to make the stop soon. We pulled up to the store and he went in. I heard this roaring, this train, and the wind started shaking the VW bug I was waiting in. My friend came to the door of the store and tried to open it, but the suction that was building up was getting too strong. I pushed and He and another man pulled and he got me inside just as all heck broke loose. He threw to the floor behind the only wall that was not glass and covered me with his body. The other man did the same with the other girl that was there. The noise, the wind, and everyone praying was what I remember. Things were flying around, like the knives that were on the table, glass and rocks, wood, etc. It got calm for a moment and we got up and moved to the bathroom. We had been laying down by the grease filled fryerlators (which we were lucky did not turn over). The storm hit again and part of the roof was taken off. We were all crying, screaming and praying. Finally it was all over. All the front glass was gone (4 large plate glass windows and 2 doors) Part of the roof was gone, but the bathroom was intact. We came out and found the VW pushed up into the wall, but it was still running. My friend drove to my house, as close as he could get and walked the rest to tell my mother I was okay. (I lived at 6th and Ave. T). He couldn't get to the house, because of the wires down, but he was able to yell and tell my Mom I was okay. Our small house was shifted on the foundation, but we had a roof.
He came back and we helped people on 4th Street. There was a 7-11 next door and people were helping everywhere.
For weeks, we did not have Electric, Gas, or phone. My family would bring us ice and we used candles. We had to get cards to show we belonged in the neighborhood and had to show to the National Guard when we came home.
We were very lucky, all our families were not injured. I used to be afraid of storms and wind, but after May 11, I figured if I could live through that, then I shouldn't be afraid any more."
"Me and my wife, Gail was at home with the kids. We put them to bed and then I heard some loud pounding on the wall. Thought the kids was hitting on the wall. Well it was hail, the size of Grape fruit hitting the top of the tlr. We lived east of Lubbock on E. 4th Street. (Mobile Carriage Estates)
We stood in the bedroom window and watched the tornado hit Lubbock. We were lucky. All we got was hail the size of grape fruit. We got our tlr. house windows broke out and our 69 ford was totaled from hail damage.
We will never forget that cloud, it was a dark green color. Lot of lighting."
Lonnie J . Adams
"I was 13 years old in 1970 and I like many others living in Lubbock will never forget the May 11th tornado. I remember how eerily quiet it was early that evening and just before the storm hit. We did not have a basement or storm cellar, so we took shelter in a bedroom with a mattress on top of us. Though the mattress was meant to shelter us from any flying debris it also helped to muffle the sound of the pounding rain and the roaring wind. Our part of town (north of 4th, just east of Indiana) did not sustain the same damage as the other parts of town, but I remember we had a tree lying across our living room.
Our family like so many others had a storm shelter built later than same year. From that time on, anytime there was a mere mention of a severe thunder storm our mother would rush us down to the storm cellar. As you might guess, we made many trips down (sometimes kicking & screaming) to the storm cellar. There were those times when we knew there were tornados all around and we couldn't know what we would find when we came back out of the storm shelter… Thankfully the storms would pass and all would be well. May Lubbock never again experience the same devastation of 35 years ago."
R. L. Moore
"I was 5 years old and remember a night of terror as if it happened last night. The memory of this night is like a dream one has the night before. The memory of my childhood years are in phases, and this night is a phase I will never forget. It is like a black and white dream that I can vividly describe and remember.
My father worked at United Supermarket on Parkway Drive and MLK. He would drive home west on 4th Street to 2nd Pl, behind The Town and Country Shopping Center around 9:00 PM every night where we lived. Fortunately this was a Monday night, (the day after Mothers Day) the only night of the week he would come home at 7:00 PM (talk about fate). I can remember my older brother and two older sisters watching TV (I was told it was The Carol Burnett Show), my then 9 month old brother in his toddler swing, and my parents walking and pacing very nervous looking out the windows that night around 9 o'clock. I can remember hearing the wind very strong and felt the walls moving as I leaned back on one of them as I sat in the bed of the room where we were all watching TV. By the nervousness of my parents and particularly my mother constantly praying and of my father running back and forth looking out the south windows, I sensed something was wrong. I can remember my father turning on the radio and fine tuning it to listen. I can honestly say that I remember the voice of the radio franticly saying "TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY, I REPEAT, TAKE SHELTER IMMEDIATELY". At that point, as panic began, my parents rushed us to another bedroom that had a crawl hole covered with a 2'x2' wood floor covering. I remember seeing the blood from my fathers finger nails he tore as he desperately tried to pull the cover up before my older brother ran and gave him a butter knife to open it with. I can remember my mom yelling at my brother to stay away from the windows as he tried to look out. At this point I can remember thinking that something was out there, I didn't know what, but I knew it was big and mean. I was the first to jump down below the wooden floor foundation. I remember how fast I jumped through this hole without bumping my self on the edges of the crawl hole and crawling under the foundation that was no more than 2 feet high. As I was down there I remember yelling and telling everyone to hurrying and get in. Although there was only six of us before my father was the last on to get in, it felt as if there was a line of 20 or more people before my father was in. Through all the crying and pandemonium of myself and my siblings, I remember my mother holding my younger brother in her arms and reading prayers from a pray sheet with the rosary in her hands. I felt safe and comforted at that point.
Later we found out, due to the lack of technology, when the radio announced to take shelter, the storm had already passed over us and was already at it's maximum capacity and destruction in the downtown and Guadalupe area east of us. Although my story is not as dramatic as others, I feel very fortunate that through my mothers constant prayers, the storm missed us as we sat watching TV. The storm missed us by less than half a mile where the heart of the devastation began just east of our residence. I feel that during the time we felt the walls shaking, the wall cloud had become a funnel and was directly over us as it formed just before touch down. Damage began just a few blocks west where the roof of the old Tech Apartments was blown off which is now Heritage Apartments on 4th St in front of the Tech Museum and a couple of hundred yards south of us at Jones Stadium where the stadium lights were folded over.
As I mentioned earlier, if you want to hear a dramatic story of survival, my wife survived with her family in a bathtub and her father and brother underneath a couch as their house exploded (as she describes it) on 1st St and Buddy Holly in the Guadalupe area where the heart of devastation occurred.
I now live in the Guadalupe Neighborhood which was rebuilt after the devastation and I am very proud of my neighborhood. There are many stories and history all around us from neighbors of this horrible night. Stories from straws found stuck in trees to bodies tangled in chain link fences and in trees, one or two houses left standing and lumber scattered everywhere. I pray that we will never have to experience a tragic night like this again. To this day, every now and then, I will have a dream of a tornado and can feel its forces."
"May 11th, 1970, I went to work at Fire Station #9 50th & Utica.. I had been on the Lubbock Fire Dept. about 8 months. This was a normal day..radio check at 6:15PM.. checking out equipment, trucks made ready (fuel, water, pumps in working order etc.) After equipment check,, supper etc. About 730PM I did notice large clouds building in the South East.. I could see the tops of the clouds rising towards the sky rather fast, which is not uncommon for West Texas in May. As time progressed , the South East was getting darker with heavy thunderstorms moving to the Northwest, which was very unusual, the storms usually move from Southwest to Northeast. I figured just another spring thunderstorm moving through the area.
We had a radio at the station which we could monitor the Lubbock PD. Their dispatcher would check with units at various parts of the City in regards to their weather conditions... I thought it was unusuall that in different areas of the city the winds were blowing in different directions, mostly toward the center area of town. Wind velocity varied in all areas. Units started reporting hail from pea size to golf ball size,, and even a PD unit did report of Grapefruit size hail. The time of day was then aprox. 9:00-9:15 PM. I went out into the appratus room to see if all doors were shut due to the extremely high wind. I noticed the large appratus room door was bowed outward. The small tree in front of the station was actually laying on the ground. The station seemed to be shaking from the high wind blowing from the North. Some of the neighbors came in wondering what was going on. The alarm system started poping through the speaker system. We tried to call the Fire Dept. Dispatcher (no response) At that time we didnt know the downtown area of the city had been hit. Lt. Travis Burnside advised us to leave a fire dept. walkie talkie on in case our alarm system was down. Approxmately 10PM a person came in and said the City had been hit by a tornado in the downtown area. We were thinking about the welfare of the personnel at Station Nr. 1 6th and Ave. K. We didnt have any communication with our dispatcher, phone lines were down, no telephone service. We couldnt call out, no one could call in. Our familys were worring about our welfare knowing that the City of Lubbock had been hit by a tornado.
Our alarm system was out and had to rely on our radio system from the trucks. This was a 24 hour a day monotoring process."
Fire Station #9
"My father, William A. Wilbanks, had built a small building on the south-east corner of 6th and Ave Q. It was kind of like a small house except that it had a couple of large plate glass windows in front with a porch overhang. A new Fields and Company building had been built just across 6th on the northeast corner. My father had passed away a time before the tornado and his building had been rented to a gentleman who repaired clocks. In back some remodeling had been done and it was being used as an apartment. Single, I was living there at the time. When the tornado hit I was visiting a friend in southwest Lubbock and was not in my fathers building (apt.) at the time. When I eventually made my way to view the damage I found that the roof overhang had been slightly damaged and that the plate glass windows had been blown out. That was all. However the new Fields and Company building had been completely demolished as well as other homes in the immediate area. Prior to the tornado there used to be a man who lived alone that was mentally retarded and had some disease that caused him to shake all the time. You could tell the shaking kept him from getting a night's sleep. The folks in the area new him and would assist him as best they could. He lived close to my father's office building and used to come around all the time telling us that he was going to the store to get some R-E-D soda pop. People were killed in that tornado. I never saw this old man again and have no idea what happened to him. My father's building was eventually sold and the La Quinta Inn now sits where it was. It wasn't a nice night!"
(born in Lubbock 1942-moved to Floydada 1992).
"I was only 11 years old (I'm 47 now)… but I can remember that night like it was yesterday. We lived about a mile off the north loop on North Quirt (MLK). I think I can remember it so vividly because of all the things that happened that day. I had just gone back to school (6th grade) after recovering from the measles. My grandmother was out here from Oklahoma helping my mom get our house packed because my dad had a new job and we were moving to Oklahoma (where my family was from). We moved to Lubbock from Ardmore Oklahoma in August 1960. After school that day I got to go outside and play with my friends and for an 11 year old that had been stuck in the house for 2 weeks… that was Heaven! We played and rode our bicycles and just had lots of "kid fun" and then my mom called us in for dinner. I can tell you just exactly what we had for dinner that night, because it was one of my favorite meals that my Grandma made for us. We had fried chicken, mashed potatoes, home made gravy, and salad. My Grandma made the best "sweet tea" in the world and chocolate cake was what she did for dessert. It was a wonderful meal! I'm the oldest of my siblings so after dinner my mom was getting my little brother and sister ready for bed. They took their bath and was already in their pajamas when the weather started getting bad. I can remember my Grandma telling my mom every time she would come back in the house from being outside that things out there just didn't feel right. She use to tell me stories of straws of hay and such being implanted in trees after tornadoes. She knew in her heart that something was brewing and kept trying to get my mom to go to the storm cellar. My mom was waiting on a call from my dad in Oklahoma and wouldn't budge. I went outside with my grandma a couple of times and remember hearing long distant rumbles… it felt like the earth was shaking and the air outside was just so heavy and just not typical of those nice cool spring evenings in West Texas. It just felt so heavy and dead out there. My Grandma made me go back in the house… when I was going in she told me to put my shoes on and get a jacket ready… she said she didn't think we would be at the house much longer. They issued the tornado warning while my mom was on the phone with my dad. The rain and wind started and then it started hailing. It was small at first and then started getting bigger and bigger and bigger. My mom had been on the phone with my dad just a few minutes when hail broke through the back window of our house. My parents were having to shout at each other to be able to hear what the other was saying because the noise was so bad from the storm. My Grandma shouted at my mom… "we need to go to the storm cellar, a tornado is coming". My mom just laughed her off and about that time a hail stone about the size of a grapefruit came through the back wall of our house… then another and then another. My mom shouted to my dad "we have to go to the cellar"… and she threw the phone done. My grandmother was terminally sick with lymphatic cancer so my mom got her out to the car (we lived in a mobile home so we had to go down the street to the shelter). She came back in and grabbed up my little sister (she was just fixing to turn 5). She got her out to the car and that hail outside was getting worse. She came back in and grabbed my little brother who was 7… she had grabbed a small box to put over his head for protection from the hail. As they were walking down the steps from the porch the wind grabbed my little brother and pulled him about 8 feet off the ground… with my poor mom dangling from his arms but never letting go. She got him down and literally threw him in the car. I was out the door and in the car in a heartbeat right after she got my little brother in the car. We were all in the car and fixing to back out of the driveway when my Grandma remember she had left her purse in the house. My mom looked at me and she pulled the car as close to the porch as she could get it and I managed to get back inside the house. My Grandma's purse was in the top of her closet and I remember having to push the end of the bed over to get up on it to get her purse. I got it and was back outside going down the steps of the porch was I was hit in the back of the head with one of those extremely large hail stones. I hit the ground and can just faintly remember getting up out of the water which was about up to my knees. I don't remember getting in the car… and the next thing I remember we were in the cellar. There were lots of other people there that lived around us. Someone in the storm cellar had the radio on and KFYO was giving a blow by blow of how the tornado was moving downtown. The DJ on the radio was watching it and when he said it was moving north (towards) us that is when the radio went dead and one of the men in the cellar told everyone to get ready. It got so quiet up above us you could have heard a pin drop and then all of a sudden… well to put it in the terms of an adult now… all hell broke loose. It was so loud that covering my ears with my hands and pressing tight did absolutely no good. I know people say that it sounds like a freight train… but that it no freight train I've ever heard. It was deafening and horrible… the sounds that that thing made were unlike anything I've ever experienced in my life. The pressure was horrible and the smell was even worse. I was sitting at the back of the cellar with my Grandma and my family and I remember looking up when the storm was at it's fullest in our area. There were 8 men with their arms looped in chains holding the storm cellar door down. These guys were big men… like my dad… each and every one of them were being lifted up because of the storm pulling on the door of the cellar. All of them were just dangling there trying to keep that door down. I remember them all falling to the ground when it was over. Things got quiet and the men all went up top and made the women and children stay below until things were clear. The power lines were down and there was natural gas fumes all over. We stayed down in the cellar for some time until things were under control and then finally emerged. I will never forget what I saw when I came up those stairs. Cars were mangled and twisted. Houses were gone… the landscape was completely different. We headed down the road to our house and when my mom rounded the corner at the next door neighbors house she just stopped in her tracks and fell to her knees. Our house was gone. There were pieces of it where it had been, but everything was gone. There was absolutely nothing left… and when I say nothing I mean NOTHING… house, belongings, clothes, everything was gone. My mom was a very solid, firm person… I don't remember very many times in my lifetime seeing her cry. She was broken that night… she just sat there on her knees crying. Neighbors came over and helped her up and did what they could…but what do you say to someone who has just lost everything in their life. Our car was still down by the cellar covered by furniture and stuff… but it was ok. A neighbor moved it down across the street to another neighbors house where me and my siblings were. My mom and my grandmother sat in the car all night trying to figure out a way to get a hold of my dad and his sisters. The National Guard was sent to watch over our neighborhood and sometime during the night a man passed through our neighborhood and was asking people if there were any family members, etc., that he could get a hold of for them. My mom gave him the number to my aunt's house where my dad was staying until school was out and we all got moved to Oklahoma. Because of the circumstances of how my mom had to stop talking to my dad, by the time this man reached him my dad was just sick not knowing what had happened. The news in Ardmore had reported tornadoes in the West Texas area, but didn't mention Lubbock. My dad knew something was wrong. When this man reached him, my dad and his 2 sisters took off for Lubbock. It was evening by the time they were able to get into us. The Red Cross had just reached us about the time he was walking from Quirt down our street to our house. My brother, sister and I walked around the corner and I saw my dad and took off running. I don't know if I had ever been so glad to see anyone as I was my dad that day. I jumped up in his arms and he went down on his knees and grabbed up my brother and sister. My mom and grandma came out of the house across the street where we were staying and my mom took off running for my dad. Daddy still had a hold of us but he grabbed her… it was an awesome family reunion. My dad said that when he came into Lubbock and got to our area he didn't know what he was going to find. The man he talked to just said that he was needed back home… he didn't give specifics… so my dad didn't know if he was coming home to us dead or what. When he saw the destruction he thought the worst. They had brought a U-Haul trailer (one of my aunts had a U-Haul business) to bring back our belongings… but they pulled it empty back to Oklahoma… because there was noting left to put in it. There are so many more things I can remember about those 2 days… but I think I've gone on long enough. It was a horrible day in this persons life. It gave me a great respect for storms and for the awesome power of mother nature. It also gave me a keen awareness of things when storms are brewing. I have a small indention in the back of my head from that big hail stone… but other than that my family came out of it unscathed. We lost every earthly possession that we had… but God blessed us with our lives. We ended up staying in Lubbock after the storm. We went through lots of other ones out here but nothing else like that night. My mom never laughed off another storm… she would beat us all to the cellar! It was a night that I will never forget… it's just still so clear in my mind."
Cindy (Coats) Keele
"I was 10 at the time and remember it well. I knew the storms were bad that night and as a kid who was born here in Lubbock I was familiar and used to them. I was scared of lightning really bad but I was terrified of tornados. We lived where my mom still resides, in the 3700 block of 26th St. My mom and dad had been divorced for 5 years and my mom's sister lived with us. They both worked for southwestern bell. We were all in the living room that night and were keeping up with the storm by way of TV. We had a old sectional couch next to a very large front window. Every time I saw lightning I hid in the corner under the cushion waiting for the loud boom of thunder. I remember hearing the winds blow hard. I know the sirens at the fire stations were going off but I couldn't hear any because of the storm. I wanted to go hide somewhere, but my mom and aunt stayed in the living room. After it was over they were both called into work, and were pretty much there for the next four or five days. I stayed with my grandmother during that. My experience I'm sure wasn't as bad as it was for many others, but I remember it well. And still to this day I'm scared of the lightning and terrified of tornados, knowing what they can do. But I'm very thankful that technology has evolved the way that it has to give people early warning to prepare for bad storms. Back then if the technology had been available maybe we wouldn't have lost the lives we did that night. But we do thank God for those who made it through the storm."
"I was at home in SW Lubbock when the tornado struck early that Sunday evening. I was standing by the back door and commented that it was perfectly still - not even a bird peeping when my husband grabbed my arm jerking me violently and throwing me toward the hall. At the same time he was screaming for the kids to get in the hall and throwing sofa pillows toward us. I thought he had gone completely insane. We found out later that the tornado hovered over Monterey HS close to us for about three minutes w/out touching down.
I was teaching at Thompson Jr. High then. All the schools were closed the next day and until Wednesday of that week. On Wednesday, our students still could not return to school for the electricity was off an additional day for us. Our faculty went into Guadalupe neighborhood trying to find out what happened to our students. We went in groups of four teachers. I remember seeing one young man that one of the other teachers knew in the middle of the rubble that had been his home. She asked him if he was all right. All he could say was, "It's all gone. There's nothing left" which he repeated dazedly several times. Most of the rest of our students we found being housed and fed at Guadaupe Neighborhood Center under Barbara Summerville's supervision.
We were open on Thursday/Friday of that week but because of no way to cook in the cafeteria (they used natural gas. to cook with) my classes fed the students. I taught Home Economics and we had electric ranges working so we served lunch for the two remaining days that week. Lunch was a hodge podge of donated food. We had several varieties of canned soups donated which we mixed and heated together, not having enough of any one variety to feed very many. On Friday, Jose's Mexican Restaurant donated a four foot tall stack of flour tortillas. This was before you could get good flour tortillas anywhere except in your own mother's kitchen and his were good. I asked two young ladies if they would like some tortillas. One of the students that did not know me and that I could understand a smattering of Spanish asked her friend, in Spanish, if the gringo (me) could cook tortillas. I smiled answering in English that no, I could not make decent tortillas and explained where these came from.
Noone complained about the weird combinations. They were just happy to have something, anything hot. Miraculously we lost only one person in this almost total demolition of this neighborhood. One area eight blocks square was leveled. This person was Little Grandmother. She was the physical grandmother to many and the adoped grandmother of all. I still miss her. She had come to school one day by invitation for I asked my students if corn tortillas made at home were as good as flour tortillas were. The flour tortillas at the store at that time tasted like you had poured Elmer's Glue on the griddle and cooked it. They invited Little Grandmother and she made tortillas all day long, using up five pounds of Masa Harina. I did not have the proper utensils for her use. She brought her own rolling pin (a handle length cut from a new broom) and baked them on my open, flat roasting pan that I brought from home. She had to be quick to turn them with her fingers and not burn her wrists on the raised edges of the pan. She made several rounded patties of the moistened dry masa and very deftly rolled them perfectly round and flat. After a while, she invited me over (in Spanish, of course. We did have a language barrier) to roll one myself. It looked easy when she did it but I found it quite difficult to handle. The adapted rolling pin kept going up the wall for I would easily lose control of it. Mine came out looking more like a fried egg than a tortilla. It was not nice and round like hers. A few minutes later, she asked me over to the griddle saying, "Este es tuya." I assured her laughingly that I could certainly identify mine from hers. She patted my arm saying kindly, "Es muy bueno, muy bueno." It was not but it tasted the same. My class room was very popular that day. We piled the cooked, hot tortillas on platters by the door and during passing periods between classes, students helped themselves. We all knew Little Grandmother and missed her very much.
This was May when the students and teachers are really looking forward to summer. One of my students came to school every Monday very tired for she spent the weekend in their storm cellar - one of the few in the neighborhood. There was a storm alert the next two weekends but this time, no alert. I mentioned this fact to my student, questioning the reason for her mother's concern. She stated, drolly that there was no storm warning on May 11th either. Her mother saw dark clouds and off to the shelter they went. This mother was on the phone with her husband explaining about the tornado. The kids grabbed her arm and shoved her down into the cellar just barely before the storm hit, destroying their home. Of course, she was cautious."
"I was in the 1st grade when my Dad and his sister cleaned offices at the Great Plains Building (called back then) at night. When the weather would get a little threatening, my mother would gather my three brothers and I and take us down to be with my Dad. The night that the tornado hit, we were all in the lobby watching the weather on the little television set that we had set up there. All of the sudden, it sounded like a bomb wet off and there was glass and wind and water blowing everywhere. I heard my mother screaming at us to get in the basement and I remember darkness and screaming and water in the basement. A lot of other people had come from the outside and had gotten into the basement too. My Dad and Aunt had gotten trapped in between floors of the building. We did not know this until after it was all over. I don't remember how we got out or when, but I remember having pieces of glass inbedded in my back and and on my arms and legs. I remember some people helping my Dad and Aunt out of the elevator. They were shooken up but okay. When we tried to drive home to check on our house, our car did not have any windows left in it. We had bricks in the seats and trunk. We had to sit in all of this to try to get home. I am now 44 and can only remember certain details of that night. We were all shocked to find out that the building that we were in was the actual building that the tornado hit. Looking back, I thank God for sparing us and what a bad situation that really was!"
"My family and I had just been assigned to Reese A.F.B. and were living in base housing, We are both from Michigan and the Lubbock area was a change to us , however we liked the slower , warmer pace of the nice folks . My wifes birthday was Monday the 11th and I told her we would get a babysitter to watch our two small children , and I would take her out to eat , plus a show . Monday found a wonderful spring day with all the earmarks of a day that promised to make the chamber of commerce proud . We set out to find a nice place to eat , only to find that the restaurants were closed on Monday. There was a Mickey Mantels fried chicken located at 4th and Q and we headed in to eat before the movie. I can remember coming out of the door and seeing Fields & Co. living centers modern building . The sky was a mass of clouds, warm and it was dead still out. I told the wife I did not like the looks of this and we should leave and go home. She wanted to go to the movie so we got in the car to talk about it. We headed up fourth towards Tech and as we got to University the light poles they had just installed at Tech for the All American game were swaying in the wind. Things were starting to blow around , so we headed out towards Reese. We got home and turned on the tv to find Lubbock had been hit. The next day we went to that same intersection of 4th & Q which looked as though a bomb had gone off there. Needless to say if I want to go home now all I have to do is say I do not like the looks of the weather. We left Reese in 1971, and came back in 1972 and stayed until we retired in 2004. The tornado bought the best out in the folks of Lubbock as they came together to help those that suffered and rebuild a stronger , better Lubbock."
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