1970s Lubbock Tornado survivors talk about future memorial

Officials break ground on 1970 tornado memorial

LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - A ground breaking ceremony was held Tuesday for the Lubbock Tornado Memorial Gateway Project. That project is expected to be completed by May 11, 2020 - which is the 50th anniversary of the deadly tornado. The memorial will be located at Glenna Goodacre Boulevard and Avenue Q. It is being built to honor and recognize the 26 victims who died in the 1970 tornado that hit the hub city. It will also pay tribute to the resiliency of the Lubbock community and their ability to rebuild.

Patricia Mora was just six years old on May 11, 1970.

“We were laying in the middle of a hall watching Carol Burnett,” said Mora, “and then my mom went outside and realized that the clouds were real purple. And she got afraid.”

Mora talked about what she remembered what happened next.

“I heard the window in the kitchen like somebody threw a rock through it. And when the rock went in there, then I remember our screams and the wall that we were leaning on fell back. And that was the end of it,” said Mora, “The next time we knew we were in the hospital.”

Mora’s older sister, Angela, later died at the hospital. She was 8 years old. Mora said Angela’s backside was crushed as she shielded their youngest sister Kathy, who was two at the time.

Karen Garrett Elkins also remembers that night, she was just four years old at the time.

“I remember, I remember bits,” said Elkins, “Waking up in the lot across the street, from where our house stood, there was nothing left it was it totally exploded. And there was nothing left of our home or any of our belongings. I remember waking up in that lot across the street.”

Karen’s father passed away at the hospital. Her mother was injured leaving her in a wheelchair for the rest of her life.

Both Mora and Elkins say they both live with the constant reminder of that night.

“I live every day, every morning. I get up because of the hole that was in my leg. And with 37 surgeries, after orthopedics, there’s nothing else they can do for me. But I thank them every day that I can still get up and walk,” said Mora, “And sometimes it does get difficult. But there’s not a day that goes by for me that I don’t think of that day and the tornado because I still live it every day.”

“It was it was daily, it was a daily reminder,” said Elkins, “You can’t get bogged down with tragedy. You know, a lot of people say tragedy shouldn’t define you. I think how can it not? It does define us. Is it going to break you? And we, none of us ,were willing to accept it to break us.”

Both women are looking forward to the memorial.

“We were all thrilled that someone took the time, you know, to make this happen. And we're all happy and excited for the fact that we're going to get to see our sister’s name in lights that she's not forgotten” said Mora.

“I'm really proud, I'm glad that they're finally doing something to honor those that that lost their lives and to recognize the tragedy,” said Elkins, “There was some good for the city that came out of it. And I think it's good to honor the citizens that did come and help.”

Many people and businesses’ donated money for the memorial. They include: Lubbock National Bank, The J.T. And Margaret Talkington Foundation, United Supermarkets, The Ch Foundation, Mark And Claudia Griffin, The Helen Jones Foundation, Plainscapital Bank And Lee Lewis Construction. They hope to have the memorial built in time for the 50th anniversary on May 11, 2020.

They are still accepting donations for the Lubbock Memorial Gateway Project.

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