For the past two days NewsChannel 11 has shared stories of survival from the tornado that left upwards of $125 million in damage in it's wake. Part of that damage is buried in North Lubbock. The debris collected from the hundreds of homes left in rubble is buried at Canyon Lakes. We meet two veterans of NewsChannel 11 who were among the first to respond and document the destruction.
"It just seemed like it happened yesterday," explains H.C. Timms. He was working as a NewsChannel 11 photographer in 1970 and he never expected to record such a devastating part of Lubbock's history, but that's what happened on May 11,1970.
"On T.V.our anchor man came on and said they had lost communication with downtown Lubbock," recalls H.C. Just after 10 p.m., he hears the news about the loss of communication. He suspects lines are down due to the stormy weather so he attempts to make his way to downtown Lubbock with his camera in one hand and a light in the other. "I got down pretty close to town but there was so much debris laying around everywhere that I couldn't go so I just stopped the car and started walking," he explains.
The tornado had ravaged through downtown Lubbock leaving behind miles of debris and devastation. In a surreal state of mind, H.C. says all he could think about was capturing the images of the aftermath. "I filmed until my light went out and then I got back here and got it processed and we were the first ones to get the footage on the air," he says.
"The news staff was small but everyone in the station worked that night and the next couple of nights and on," says Ralph Shelton, then a reporter for NewsChannel 11. He arrived on the scene shortly after the tornado struck downtown and recalls the urgency of not just getting the footage on the air but offering resources for those in need. "There was a whole emphasis about getting this out to people. Not just the news story but information that people needed," explains Ralph.
But it wasn't until the sun came up that the destruction became a reality. "I do remember seeing people crying. We just kept on filming because there was so much of it everywhere we went," says H.C
H.C., Ralph and another photographer filmed for three days straight, with little sleep. But on his quest to capture the images of the rubble H.C. says he realized then that through the lens of the camera even he couldn't fathom the devastation. "When you see something like this you really don't see it. You're looking past it, to the next shot," he explains.
The event that changed Lubbock forever remains alive through the images of this old film and in the hearts of those like H.C. and Ralph who lived to tell about it.
Ralph has since retired but H.C. Still works for NewsChannel 11.
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