The Making Of This Site
January 7, 2005
"Why does this site exist?", you may ask. This site is the result of my interest in a few things:
Now, all of these items come together with the history of my uncle being a victim of the Omaha tornado of May 6, 1975. Here is my inspiration...
My father, Keith, was born into the Hayden family in Omaha, NE in 1940. After serving in the United States Navy, he settled in California in his early 20's in order to start a new life out west as a fire fighter. His mother (Doris), his three brothers (Harry, Bruce, and Kenny), and his sister (Gwen) continued to reside in Omaha. In 1966, I was born in California and have lived here for my entire life.
In 1975, I was only nine years old. On a typical spring day, we received a phone call from Omaha. My dad's oldest brother, Harry Hayden, was traveling home when he was caught in the tornado.
For nearly 30 years, this was the extent of my knowledge of the event. Oh, sure, my family traveled back to Omaha the summer of 1976, but much of the ruins were gone and/or rebuilt. Not having been to Omaha since I was two years old, I had no recollection as to any place that may look different from either being destroyed or rebuilt. We drove around and my relatives pointed out various sites, but it meant nothing to me at the time. Besides, we had just spent a week on the road, driving from California to Nebraska, so, it was just another Anytown, USA in my eyes.
The weekend of September 8th, 2001, my grandmother (Doris) celebrated her 90th birthday with a family reunion. My sister (who was also living in California) and I weren't in the position to be able to join the festivities. We decided to have our own get-together at my house on September 9th. We barbecued great food. Our kids played on the swing and in the pool. We videotaped nearly the entire event, introducing Grandma to our spouses and our kids with a series of silly skits. Our plan was for me to edit it together at the small TV studio at which I work and send it to her as a surprise. Two days later, the World Trade Center was attacked. My entire outlook and priorities changed. I literally completely forgot about the tape.
Weeks passed and I finally remembered the tape. I finished it and sent it.
In winter of 2003, we decided we would make Omaha our family vacation location for the summer of 2004. That summer, we flew back to Nebraska. My son (Michael) was almost eight years old and Grandma was going to be 93 in September.
My grandmother lives in in-law quarters attached to her oldest son's (Harry) house. Now, an interesting thing about Harry, is this. In 1977, a year after our summer visit, and two years after surviving the tornado, while at work, Harry fell from some scaffolding and broke his neck. He has been paralyzed from the neck down ever since and confined to a wheel chair during his waken hours.
While visiting, Michael's curiosity got the best of him. He started asking Harry about the wheel chair, his condition, and basically what happened. Harry, being the high-spirited person that he is, didn't hesitate to tell him. Then, someone volunteered (and I am not sure who... it could even have been me) that Harry had also been in a tornado. He acknowledge, looking at Michael, "That's right!"
I looked at him and said, "You know... I never really have heard about what happened. Do you mind sharing?"
"Not at all......"
Harry has since taken the time to enter his story into the computer so I may post it here.
After listening to his story, I was fascinated. When we returned to California, I started trying to research the event on the internet. I could turn up very little. What I did find at the Nation Weather Service Central Region Headquarters Site was a map and damage photos. After studying them in more detail, I realized that the tornado passed within a quarter mile of the house, in which we had sat, while Harry had told us his story. I was also amazed that, 30 years later, I recognized some of the damaged buildings in the pictures, as we had driven by them a few months ago. While visiting, we stayed at a hotel near US 75 and Cornhusker. Although not the quickest route, we traveled north on 72nd from Cornhusker to Grant/N 75th and south on route 85 from Interstate 80 to Cornhusker, just to see the area. On the day we were to fly home, we stopped by Grandma's house to say goodbye. When we left, we traveled north to Maple/Route 64 where we headed east to Eppley Field. I had no idea at the time that we were driving along or through many of the areas that had been hit by the tornado.
Being the map geek that I am, I decided to create a detailed map of the tornado path. Once I began, I was shocked at how many streets were actually hit along the path. This drove me to take it a step further. I began to create an overlay of the tornado's path onto the most recent satellite aerial photos. I was awe struck. This really put the size of the tornado and distance traveled into perspective. I thought to myself, "I should share this with others.... This is the kind of information that I would want to see if I were searching for this on the web... I should start a web site...."
Thus, being a result of my internet search. I backed out to the root directory and found an email address for the webmaster. I emailed him and he put me in touch with Cynthia. As it turns out, Cynthia (Cindy) lived five blocks from my grandmother's house. For a while, her mother and my grandmother worked at Lucas Hall. Her mother remembers my grandmother and Harry. What a small world. We began sharing more stories and I told her what I was planning on doing. She has contributed by providing photos and her story of the event.
I immediately began creating the web site. And, that... is my story.