On my life’s timeline, the 1958 Tornado was definitely a major event. I was only five years-old, but the memory of that night has remained with me.
My parents, brother and I were at the home of friends a few blocks away and barely made it to the basement before the tornado arrived. There were no storm sirens, and we looked briefly at the huge black funnel before we took cover.
My mother can still recall the “dead quiet” immediately following the tornado strike and how eerie it seemed.
The destruction only took minutes and it was relatively early in the evening, but without power and communications, it would be awhile before people knew the extent of damage.
My dad must have known the situation was critical, but did his best not to upset us. He left and when he didn’t return quickly, we loaded up in the friends’ car and headed to our house on Park Street.
My young eyes could not believe the images. How could this be our block? Where were our neighbors? Where was our house? Where were all the trees? Our house, our belongings and our life were scattered in pieces.
I didn’t fully understand what was happening. All I knew was that Mom was crying and we needed to find Dad.
We soon learned that he had found injured people and transported them to Susan B. Allen Memorial Hospital. He later told us about taking an injured mother and her children to the hospital so quickly that the hospital staff was not aware of the critical situation. That would change in a matter of minutes.
The following days and weeks were marked with salvaging personal possessions and taking care of necessities.
We joined others sorting through the collection of found documents and photographs displayed at Prospect School. I remember walking by tables filled with photos and the feeling of triumph when my parents recovered a few treasured memories.
My parents kept things hopeful. They continue to demonstrate their strong faith and optimism in the most difficult situations. They have always shown me to believe in the future and see the good things in the world.
I developed a deep respect for nature and storms, however, despite my fascination for funnels, I am cautious when storm warnings arise.
I remember the kindness and resilience of a community in the face of disaster and loss - a time when the majority of help came from one another.
A special thanks to the El Dorado Rotary Club for reminding all of us each year of the precious lives lost and the precious lives spared.
For more 1958 El Dorado Tornado memories, pick up a copy of the Saturday June 2, 2018 TG edition.