1970 Tornado Survivors Recount Stories 50 Years Later

Updated: May. 11, 2020 at 9:52 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - In addition to the 26 people who tragically lost their lives 50 years ago, more than 1,500 were also injured. Despite their personal tragedy, they have a message of hope for residents not only in Lubbock, but across the South Plains.

“I was driving and I saw the debris flying all over me. So, I thought maybe I need to save my new car,” said Dr. Monzer Attar.

“We were actually watching Carol Burnett on TV,” said Patricia Mora.

“I remember us waking up in the field across the street from where our house once stood,” said Karen Elkins.

Tragically, May 11, 1970 was the night mother nature carved out a new life for each of them.

Dr. Attar, who arrived in Lubbock in 1968 to practice medicine, had just finished his rounds at West Texas Hospital, downtown, when the tornado hit.

“The two by four, two by two came and hit me on the face….I lost consciousness,” said Attar.

Two Lubbock Police Officer found Dr. Attar still siting in his Lincoln, so they transported him to Covenant, which was Methodist Hospital at the time.

“They took me to the emergency room, but nobody recognized me because my face was cut in pieces. At the beginning of the surgery, they thought I would never make it. They removed pieces of wood from the base of the brain. I woke up four days later with no nose, and a lot of injuries to my head,” added Attar.

Meanwhile, across town, Patricia Mora’s family was living their own nightmare.

"My mom had went outside and noticed that the sky was purple and she got concerned. and she told us to get up and she leaned the table against a wall, and when she leaned it against the wall, she threw pillows and stuff – it was in the kitchen, she threw pillows and stuff behind there and told us to get back there,” said Mora.

However, the protection Patricia’s mother provided was not enough to stop their world from shattering.

“I heard like a rock being thrown in the kitchen window and after that, the wall that we were leaning on fell back….when it fell back we started screaming and then the next thing we knew, we were at Methodist hospital,” added Mora, which was a similar experience to Karen Elkin’s family.

“Our house had gone up in the air and exploded and we were in the lot across the street from where our house was and my mom and my two brothers and I, we were all clumped together. My dad was, they later found him in a bar ditch face down and he had had several head contusions and he had water in his lungs. So, he passed away. Mom was a paraplegic for the remainder of her life," said Elkins.

Sadly, for Karen’s family, their was even more loss as her aunt, uncle and two cousins were also killed.

While the E-F-5 forged a path of destruction encompassing 15 square miles for more than 30 minutes, the silence that followed allowed a community to gather together and shout from the rooftops how much they cared for their neighbors.

However, it was the following days and months that would prove the most difficult for this group of survivors.

Dr. Attar spent the next three years of his life undergoing reconstructive surgery to repair his nose.

For Patricia, who lost her older sister Angie, who died protecting their younger sister, Kathy, her battle had just begun as she underwent more than 30 grueling surgeries to repair a knee that was destroyed by debris.

Meanwhile, Karen’s mother spent the next year learning how to live a life as normally as possible from a wheelchair.

Despite the devastation, their spirits were not broken, nor their stories forgotten.

“I got hit in the tornado and now I’m part of Lubbock,” said Attar.

"My sister Angela Marie Mora, she was a hero,” said Mora.

“You know, bad things happen everywhere - I think our community is strong, ” added Elkins.

With each sharing a message of hope for the future.

“After each disaster, there’s always hope for better,” said Attar.

“50 years ago we went through a devastation and we overcame it and went on," said Mora.

“You know, a lot of people say that tragedy doesn’t define you – and I say, how could it not define you? It doesn’t have to control you, but it does shape who you are,” said Elkins.

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