is what I remember about that day in May.
It seemed like
a very normal and typical day in May. My sisters and I had
walked to school that morning as we did everyday. The school
was just next to the park on the south side of Blondo at 69th.
My mom was off work that day. Normally she would be at work
till about 5:30 pm and my dad until about 6:00pm. My sisters
and I were usually home alone. I remember that at 4:00pm things
started to get really odd looking outside and my mom started
acting kind of scared. It was not my mom’s nature to
be scared, especially of the weather. After living in Nebraska
all of our lives, we kind of took tornados for granted. I
remember my mom listening to the radio and she was on and
off the phone with my dad and grandma. I can even remember
the smallest details of that time. My youngest sister Kristi
was making candles and stirring the wax over the stove. I
had just made macaroni and cheese and my other 2 sisters were
watching TV. My mom kept going to the front door and looking
at the sky. Things were starting to get very eerie outside.
Finally my mom said, "Girls, grab your shoes and let’s
go downstairs. The weather is getting bad." My sisters
and I didn't want to go down stairs. We thought, “Here
we go again, another tornado season!” Finally we decided
to go to the basement. I, being a 13 year-old at the time,
told my mom that I was going to go upstairs and get my homework.
I was really just being defiant and did not want to stay downstairs.
I walked upstairs and I will never forget what I saw. The
house was scary! The sky was green, grey, and black. The wind
started blowing. Our house had a color of grey and green.
I was humbled. I didn’t even get my books. I ran down
stairs as fast as I could, not knowing that that would be
the last time I would see our house. I was not down stairs
more that 5 minutes and my mom went to look out the garage
windows. She ran back yelling, ''GET DOWN, GIRLS! EVERYONE
GET DOWN! THINGS ARE FLYING OUTSIDE!" My 3 sisters were
in the south west corner of the room and they grabbed a sleeping
bag and huddled up in the corner. My mom, the dog and I were
behind them. I don’t know how I did this but I grabbed
a heavy mattress that was on the bed next to us and I pulled
it over the dog, myself and my mom. I didn't get it pulled
over fast enough and I did not get my mom totally covered.
Then it hit.
The noise was horrible.
It was so loud. All I could hear was slamming, glass breaking,
and things banging together. It was such a loud and destructive
sound. I laid there thinking that when this is over one of
us might not be a live. I was terrified. I don’t know
what made me look out from the mattress, but, when I peeked
out, I witnessed our house being pulled off the foundation,
lifting off into the sky… a vision that I will never
forget. I put my head back down and held onto the mattress
for dear life. My youngest sister (Kristi, 2nd grade) started
to get sucked out. My oldest sister (Cheryl, 9th grade) wrapped
her legs around Kristi and held her down. It seemed like things
were lasting forever.
Finally it was
quiet. We looked out and we could hardly believe what we saw.
There was a car over us. The front tires were resting on top
of the basement foundation and the back tires were on the
floor of our basement… literally on top of us. My mom
had been hit in the head by the car as it came down on us.
She was laying there quiet and bloody. My sisters and I just
started screaming and yelling for help. Soon our neighbor
(Jim Donner) came running over. He could hardly get to us.
He had to climb over debris to reach us and pull us out. The
National Guard was already out on the street by this time.
They came to help my mom who had regained consciousness from
the car dripping gasoline onto her face. After we came out
from under the car and made our way out onto the street, the
National Guard transported us to the hospital. My mom’s
head was cut pretty bad and two of my sisters had cuts on
their feet because they did not put their shoes on as my mom
As we were making
our way to the hospital, my dad had heard on the radio that
the tornado had hit 72nd and Blondo. He tried calling our
house but was obviously unable to get through. My dad left
work at the Omaha National Bank downtown and tried to get
home. He was only able to drive so far before he had to abandon
the car and start on foot. He ran about 4 blocks only to find
his home and family were nowhere in sight. My dad asked one
of the neighbors where we were and the neighbor told him that
we had been taken to the hospital. My dad was terrified. He
had no idea if anyone one of us were dead or alive. My dad
went to 2 hospitals before he found us. It was quiet a reunion
when he found us all alive and basically well. Something changed
in my dad that day and I don’t think he was ever the
My mom had to have
44 stitches for her head wound and had a concussion. I have
never seen a hospital like it was that night. There were people
everywhere. They were standing throughout the halls, some
bleeding, and some crying. Some being wheeled down the halls
and some were being treated in the waiting rooms. The hospital
staff was in Disaster Alert mode. I was very impressed by
their professionalism and calmness they displayed.
That night, after
we left the hospital, we went to stay at my grandma’s
apartment at 74th and Blondo. Thank God her building was not
destroyed. The apartment was quiet small but we were just
happy to all be together. Before we went to bed, my dad decided
that he would go over to the house and see if there was anything
that he could save. There was still a little day light left,
so he walked about 4 blocks from my grandma’s to our
house. There was virtually nothing left to save. As he was
walking among the piles of rubble and debris in the back of
the house, he came across a dead body. It was an elderly lady
whom lived behind us and up the street about 4 or 5 houses.
Her name was Mrs. Baker. She was a deaf lady and had no idea
that the tornado sirens were sounding. Over the course of
the next week or two, as we cleaned up everything in our back
yard, we found Mrs. Baker’s clothes and many of her
belongings. We even found her false teeth.
In the midst of
all of this, my parents knew that they needed to find a place
for us to live. My grandma's apartment was simply too small
for 7 extra people and a dog. They ended up getting a town
house in West Omaha. As we moved in the town house, we took
a mattress, blankets, and a radio to the basement just in
case we would ever need them.
In case you didn’t
know, May through June is High Tornado season in Nebraska.
We had just witnessed it first hand. It was now the middle
of May and my parents were both working full time while my
sisters and I were out for summer vacation. Something that
I never notice until then, is there is almost always a cloud
in the sky. That summer, my sisters and I were so scared,
that our entire existence depended on the sky. My oldest sister
(Cheryl) was constantly vomiting and could hardly keep anything
down. She was loosing weight rapidly and getting very sick.
We sat in our town house all day long listening to the radio
and watching the sky. One day Cheryl was getting sick because
the sky was cloudy. This particular day, the wind had picked
up a little bit, as it usually does in Nebraska, and we went
to the basement. We all huddled in the corner. There weren’t
even any watches or warnings being issued. As we sat in the
corner, scared to death that a tornado was going to come again,
the pipes broke over our heads. Water started coming down
on us and my sisters and I started screaming hysterically.
We were terrified. It seemed as if things like this happened
all summer. One day the tornado sirens had sounded, meaning
a tornado warning had been issued. We lost control of ourselves
and we went running, banging, from door to door, begging people
to let us in. We finally found a lady home that let us all
in as she could tell that we were very scared. The funny thing
about it was she wasn't. I can't believe this is how we use
We lived in the
town house for 3 months until our house was finished being
rebuilt. We were all so happy to be back. The neighborhood
looked much different now, but all of the neighbors had rebuilt
except one. We eventually did get back to our regular routine
and started living again. We do have much more respect for
Tornados, but we don’t let the weather control our lives
like we did the summer of ‘75.