By Chris Dunmire, CurrentLiving.com
I felt the low rumblings from outside resonating through the walls as I sat working at my desk. Looking out my office window I witnessed dark gray clouds moving in, warning of an impending Sunday morning rainstorm about to let go.
Within minutes quarter-sized raindrops began splattering the ground. Soon the sky opened up and the rain poured down, accentuated by more grumblings of thunder. We've needed this rain for weeks, I thought to myself, and I'm thankful it's falling.
Rainstorms like this happen all the time in the Midwest. More often than not, they are welcomed by farmers who need a good soaking in their crop fields and they make homeowners with parched lawns and thirsty flowers smile. Benign storms such as these cause little reason for concern. Occasionally the power goes out or we find ourselves caught outside without an umbrella, but these small inconveniences are soon forgotten and life goes on.
But then there are the "other" kinds of storms, ones that are never forgotten by those who lived through them. These storms cause destruction, devastation, and even death. They manifest as magnanimous monsters with names like "Hurricane Katrina" and "Tornadoes of Terror."
The dark looming clouds soon reminded me of an event that happened 40 years ago in the town I live in. I wasn't even born when it happened, but this year marked the 40th anniversary of the wickedest windstorm this town has ever seen — a terrifying tornado that claimed two dozen lives and injured hundreds of others.
The anniversary of this tornado was in April, so much has surfaced about it over the last few months in our community. Newspaper articles, stories, and memorials have saturated local consciousness. I spent hours immersed in learning about this local history and visiting one location where many children died.
On April 21, 2007, the town of Belvidere, Illinois, marked the 40-year anniversary of a horrific tornado that ripped through town causing millions of dollars in damage and claiming the lives of 24 people. According to the Rockford Register Star:
"The devastation left behind by the April 21, 1967, tornado was overwhelming. It tore a 10-mile swath of destruction through Belvidere and caused $25 million in damage. More than 500 were injured and 25 were dead."
Among the dead were children and teenagers who were just let out of school and boarding busses at the Belvidere High School when the tornado ripped through. The following report is from an article by the the Rockford Morning Star published the following day:
"It was 3:50 p.m. and it was raining as classes ended and children began crowding out of the almost-new Belvidere High School and ran towards their waiting busses.
Suddenly the tornado — some said two tornadoes — came churning up from the west, smashing its way through a row of homes along Highland Street.
The storm tore and clutched at the school, breaking almost every window and blasting holes through the roof.
And thus, out of the gray sky came tragedy. At the High School, eight were dead. Others were near death."
In commemorating the anniversary of this event, the Rockford Register Star created an online multimedia presentation titled "Belvidere Tornado Remembered" where you could read the actual newspaper articles, view historical photos, and learn about the anniversary events, including stories from survivors about that horrific day. It was a solemn experience, but it gave you a realistic sense of this tragic event.
In connection with the 40th Anniversary of the Tornado, the town of Belvidere dedicated a memorial in front of the Performing Arts Center of the Belvidere High School.
The stainless steel tornado memorial stands more than six feet tall and is engraved with the victims' names. Surrounding the memorial are four stainless steel benches where one can sit for quiet contemplation to remember the lives of those who were lost. •
© 2007 Chris Dunmire, CurrentLiving.com. All rights reserved. (06/03/07) Please do not duplicate this article elsewhere without my permission.
About the Author | More by Chris Dunmire
Chris Dunmire is engaged in life as an artist, writer, seeker, and publisher of the popular creativity Web site Creativity-Portal.com. Learn more about Chris and her creative projects at ChrisDunmire.com.