It is still emotional for me to re-tell the events of April 26, 1991. I was a recent first-time mother. Tyler Richard Beck was only 4 days old--and barely 6 pounds! My only focus was on HIM--NOT the weather!
Just months before, we had moved into our newly built home in a secluded acreage just 1 mile NE (13th and Prairie Creek Road area) of the Golden Spur Trailer Park. Late in the afternoon, my husband was on an errand at Town East Mall to buy a breast pump (of all things!).
A dear friend, Sue Armstrong, called to see if I knew of the approaching tornado. No. My husband returned home just in time before it would have been between us! I relayed the message. We looked to the SW across the field and sure enough! There was this massive, wide, black 'cloud' (is that why we are called Cloud City?) coming right towards us! It was still and green outside. We rushed downstairs, put a mattress on top of us. Our yellow lab, Buckwheat, jumped on top as if to protect us.
We said good-bye to each other and prayed to God in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We heard the roar of the train sound whistling through our home. Windows breaking. Sounds of items being knocked over. We thought the entire upstairs would be gone.
In minutes (seconds?) it was so quiet--as if to hear a pin drop.
We were alive!
As we ventured upstairs, we saw it was intact. Maybe it was the brick house. Maybe it was the Sautillo tiled floor. All north and east windows were smashed in (or was it sucked out?). But oddly enough framed picture on end tables were still in place.
I don't think we said much. Not knowing what to do, we went out and sat on the front porch. Confused. Grateful.
Not much later (30 minutes?), our dear friend and builder, Stan Lawrence, and his middle school daughter, Jamie (in a leg cast), came running/hobbling up our 1/4-mile drive with white faces. They had seen furniture and such in the tree lines and thought we'd be gone. With downed power lines and poles, they had to hurdle over them. There was no way to drive up to our home.
Shortly after the Lawrence's left, our dear friends John and Nancy McEwen made their way (of which I have no recollection of) to our home. They had observed the tornado from the second floor of their Augusta home. They passed dead cows with boards stabbed in them and only thought the worst for us. They also saw no house left at 13th and Meadowlark (1 mile NE of us) where Keith Harpstrite lived.
Arrangements where made with McEwen's for the next morning to meet us at 13th and Prairie Creek with their car. Tyler was jaundiced and had a doctor's appointment. We walked over 1/4-mile through tall prairie grass. Not an easy feat after giving birth. The next days were spent at my father-in-law's home in Wichita. My parents from South Dakota were scheduled to meet their newest grandchild in a few days but rushed down immediately. Upon their arrival, I was the baby and just sat on my mom's lap and sobbed.
Page 2 of 2 - After we could live back in our house, groups of friends and church members spent days picking up the debris, of which most came from the trailer park. Every square foot of land had some remnant jettisoned into it. The back treeline was mangled. Even a fishing boat suspended in the branches.
One day when people were helping clean up, I went to Ed's IGA (a grocery store...where Tuesday Morning now is) to get hot dogs, etc. When I was ready to check out--opps--I forgot my wallet. Ed said, "Don't worry...take the food and go". Oh that small town and family-owned business trust! Of course I later paid him back.
Because of just having built our home, there was a metal (vintage, yeah?) trash can full of concrete boulders still in it. Next to it was a contemporary, light in weight, wooden, yard high statue of a flutist. After the tornado, the can and concrete were never to be seen again...but the wooden sculpture was exactly in place!
Days later, we spoke to Keith Harpstrite. He said he saw the tornado lift over our house. Unbelievable. From the wreckage of a tree line on the east of our home, there was evidence that a finger of the tornado had only been 100 yards from us!
Turns out that Jamie Lawrence (girl in the cast) was Tyler's first beloved babysitter.
Today, "Tornado Ty" turns 21 and is very appreciative of his God-given life at KU-Army ROTC.
Signed, Meg E. Beck