If you were living in or near Oak Lawn, Illinois, on April 21, 1967, your life permanently changed that day. You witnessed the devastation that a 65 mph tornado can cause. If you weren’t affected directly, no doubt you had family, or knew friends and neighbors, that lost their homes or even loved ones.
The Oak Lawn tornado killed 33 people, injured over 1,000 and caused $50 million ($285 million in today’s dollars) worth of damage. So much time has passed since then, a large portion of the population wasn’t yet born by that fateful day.
If you were around, no doubt you have vivid memories of the events of that day. Let us hear your story, where you were at, what you were doing, your thoughts then, your thoughts now, of the Oak Lawn tornado.
Leave your comments below. If you don’t see a box to leave your comments, simply click the ‘Comments’ link. Your memories will be recorded for future generations to read and study.
I was only 3 years old when the twister struck, but that day was one of my very first memories of life. The twister first touched down exactly one mile to the south of us, and most of the devastation ocurred about three miles to the east. I knew nothing of a tornado that day, but I distinctly remember having to sit in our basement, which we rarely did. I can still see the colorful plastic chairs down there, and the grim looks on the faces of my parents. As I got older and saw the photos, streets and landmarks I would see several times every week in the routine of life, I could not believe the devastation. For years, just seeing the word “tornado” frightened me.
Interesting. I was eight, almost nine as I wrote further below. It was the first one I ever witnessed and experienced to any degree. I was about 1.5 to 2 miles south of you I’d guess, and maybe further east. I lived on 82nd and Winchester Avenue in Chicago proper.
I was 4 when it hit, i lived near 83rd and Narragansett ave. My father saw the tornado from the back yard and told us to all get into the crawlspace under the house(no basement). It was dark and had spiderwebs and i was scared to death!!! But what made this even worse was that my parents thought it would be a good idea to pack up the 3 kids in the car and go “check out” what happened the next day….. big mistake for children to see that if they dont have too. I remember clearly seeing the OL High School gym ripped apart, Buses on peoples front porches, and just trees and debris everywhere. The sight of all this death and destruction scarred me for almost 20 yrs. I can still remember shaking uncontrollably in bed at night every time i heard the sirens go off until i was almost 20. Yet, i am still drawn to any story about tornados or the Oak Lawn tornado. I even have a map of the path of destruction that tornado took as my computer screensaver….Oh yeah, i also remember The Starlite Drive-in movie screen bent and the speakers thrown apart.
I was 15 years old. I went to the orthodontist that afternoon after school to get my braces taken off. The office was on 95th st. and Ashland Ave., upstairs from a bank. After my appointment, I went downstairs to the bank to wait for my dad to pick me up. The sky was beginning to turn a dark, dark, green-black color. At about 5:05 pm, it was pitch-black, and a huge, huge gust of wind came up very suddenly.
For the next few years, every time springtime would come around, I would have a few nightmares.
This is very strange I was also at that same orthodontist at 95th and Asland, I believe Christopher and someone else, however had left a little earlier and was at 95th and Pulaski when it it the Oak Lawn area, we were in a car, my two sisters, mom and me
Gene Sawyer says
Were you at Dr. Christophers office at the time. My wife ,daughter and I were just leaving his office when it struck. We were at 95th. & Cicero .
Yeah, basically what I saw as well as I wrote below. I was eight, nearing nine. Lived on 82nd and Winchester in Chicago proper. It came within half a mile and you’d think you’re safe at that distance, but even by us we had some downed branches and plenty of debris, but no real damage on our block. Just a couple of blocks away, and further up by 87th to 95th it was worse.
Come to think of it, I think I’ve been there during some of those years, at that same orthodontists. Matter-of-fact, one of them had a son who was a friend of mine for a while. Small world.
I remember it real well my dad was a fireman for Oak Lawn and his stories about going into the roller rink to bring bodies out made me real sad I was 11 at the time.I was sitting in my livingroom no basement we opened the door it sounded just like a train going by it hit 3 blocks from our house
Kathleen Reed says
I was 9 years old at the time of the tornado, that day changed my life forever. I had stopped at a small grocery store with my father and brother at 103rd and Central when it hit. The lights went out and the sound was so loud it drowned out my screams. we were not aware of the amount of devistation untill later on that night when we returned back to our home.My Aunt and Uncle werer moving from the city to Hinsdale where we were headed with some cold cuts for dinner. I was at the delli counter alone when the tornado hit, the memory is as fresh as yesterday. Although we were under a tornado watch, we never dreamed that a tornado of that magnatude could hit us. Today I live in Western Arkansas,and when the skys turn dark you can be sure I have my NOAA weather radio on. In the four years that I have lived here we have been under a tornado warning three times and each time we retreated to a centrally located closet. I hope that some day I can forget those terrible memories.
Terrible memories will always be with us to one degree or another. Just keep yourself busy, study for something YOU want to learn even if you’re studying on your own. I’ve got plenty of bad memories from my childhood and I was eight, almost nine kid myself when it hit. That was bad enough, but I have worse memories than that as well. Hope you’re doing well these days. Be happy as much as possible and don’t worry or try not to.
I was 17 and working at Franksville – 87th & Cicero that evening. I was in the back when someone ran in yelling abunt the storm. Looking out the windows – the dining area was all glass, we watched it cross Cicero. Cicero had a slight curve south of 87th, so we had a perfect view. The base of the tornado covered all six plus lanes of traffic. It was a huge green rotating monster. Debris was flying everywhere. The power went out and the phone line dead. We closed and I rushed home. My father was a building inspector for the Village and this was about the time he usually drove home from the village hall at 94th & Cook to our house at 87th & Tulley. When I got home my mother said he was fine, he had a quick sandwitch and went back to work.
Later that night I walked down SW Highway from Central, rounded the curve and saw the corner of the pool area of Oak Lawn HS – GONE.
It was later in the weekend before I saw the remains of St. Gerald, my grade school.
I didn’t see much of my father for several days as they were busy inspecting houses.
Once in a life is enough. I still get chills thinking of the images that evening.
Don’t ever play with mother nature.
I was younger than you bro, on the south side of Chicago proper at 82nd and Winchester Ave. We didn’t get a direct hit but it was bad enough just watching it and the few downed branches and limbs right by us and all the damage I saw as well, including there at Oak Lawn HS and elsewhere. My mom was a private duty nurse and had patients, so after it hit I went with her to go check on them and yeah, we looked at some of the damage and offered assistance as well. I’ve been through many of them since, mainly down here in Florida, and lived through Irma (Talk about damage and weeks and months of damage and the years of repairs and rebuilding that are still ongoing.), Elena and many other. I’ve chased after tornadoes and the eye walls of hurricanes and tropical storms, should have done it professionally per se.
Rosann Stvrtecky Green says
Bill my name is Rosann I think I lived across the street from you then. My older brothers are Jim and Dan. It was horrible in our town that day. I was young And didn’t see much of the detestation. I just came across your post when I was looking for a picture of the Franksville. My dad took me there often so great memories.
Dirk Mooth says
I was in the Roller Rink that day with a hand full of skaters that were there for lessons, and practice. We were all competitive skaters of different skill levels. I remember talking with my Sister, as we headed to the rink that day, about the warnings, we were aware, but like most people, never had a reason to take them too seriously. We headed to practice, and to work out. A hand full of us had recently put together what was called a “Fours team” where four skaters interacted with each other doing spins, jumps, and different dance choreography. Two of my partners Christine Hines, and David Nork would die that day. We were first aware that something was happening when it became very dark outside, and the pressure changes caused my ears to pop. We all stopped what we were doing and were looking around when the wind outside began picking up gravel from the parking lot, and sent it crashing through the windows. we instanty knew to dive for cover. I can’t remember if I had a lesson that day, but I was in the process of changing my clothes to begin the Fours workout, which meant we would be falling down alot, and I normally put on some grubby clothes for the workout. I had gotten one skate on when my ears popped, and someone yelled to get down. My Sister was near buy, and we both dove under a wooden bench that was used by spectators, and people to get their skates on. It was fairly wide as it had a common wedge shaped back, and a place to sit on both sides. It was probably 10 feet long. As the storm hit, the noise was unbeleivable, and I was quickly knocked unconsious. I have a vague recollection of being pushed around as though I was in a pile of lumber and a Bulldozer was shoving me around. I came to as rain beat down on me. I looked up, and saw the sky. I could hear people moaning. They were friends who were buried in the rubble. I could not see them but I could hear them. I wore glasses and was pretty nearsighted, probably a good thing considering the damage and injuries that were around me. I was not buried at all, there was only a piece of electrical conduit across my leg which I easily removed. My sister was still there next to me. She had one of the main support beams from the rink lying across her, and she was pinned down by the weight of the beam. There was no way I could get it off her. I would later see her at the hospital and find out that her leg had been broken in six places between her knee and ankle, she also would require surgery to her face, as she came very close to loosing her eye. I had survived with a concussion, and two stiches to my cheek. I spent six days at Christ Community Hospital, my Sister, twenty one. I can remember walking through the debris with one skate on and my other foot only protected by my sock to try and find help. It was dark, and wet, and I somehow found my way to a stairway in an adjacent building where I found other Skaters, and discovered that Mrs Hanley had also been killed in the storm. We were somehow taken to the hospital which was total chaos. My Sister and I were reunited there in the hallway as she was brought in on a door, and taken to surgery. Several weeks after the Tornado, a man knocked on our door, to hand my Mother my wallet. He had found it as crews were cleaning and removing debris. I was an employee at the roller rink, and had just been paid, all my cash was still in that wallet. It’s hard to beleive it’s been nearly fourty years since that day, It changed all of our lives in some way that day, and my memories of the day are still very vivid.
Oh this story just makes my heart ache.
Donna Vickroy says
I am writing a story for the SouthtownStar newspaper about tornado preparedness. I’m hoping to chat with people who’ve actually seen tornadoes and their devastating effects to see how they respond to tornado warnings now.
Want to comment? I can be reached at (708) 633-5982.
Are you related to a Michael Vickroy who lived down here in Florida about 30-55 years ago? He had a brother and I’m not sure of who else. He spoke Esperanto I remember. Just wondering. I’ve been through many of them, including that one, though we didn’t get hit directly where we lived at 82nd and Winchester. I made it through all of them as well as our hurricanes such as Elena, Francis, Irma (She was the worst of the bunch for me and others here, not only days but weeks and for some months without power and weeks and months of clean-up and months and years of rebuilding) and many others.
My heart goes out to you for the memories you bear. I was on my way home from downtown on the bus and was stranded on the Dan Ryan for 3 hours. We didn’t know what had happened.
I hope your sister and the others are doing alright today. As my neighbor said as we watched the funnel cloud descending and getting bigger and engulfing the western horizon that “It’s gonna be a bad one.” I’ve been through many of them since then, but nothing even as strong as that one. I live on the south side of Chicago proper, didn’t have it anywhere near as bad as when I’ve been through them since or through our hurricanes here in Florida, but it was bad enough for an eight year old kid to witness and worse for those a bit younger. However, I’ve taken it in stride and seem to know when all hell is about to break loose.
Linda Nork says
How well did you know David!
Hi Dirk, my friend Sandy and I were at the rink that day. Seconds before it hit we were dancing around the jukebox with Dave Nork. Someone (I think it was you) saw it coming and yelled out to take cover) It hit the front of the building and we ran for shelter; Sandy and I went into the ladies’ bathroom and Dave went into the coat room. Do you remember us? We were there every single weekend. When my parents were looking for me at the hospitals, they were told I was there and in emergency surgery; it was actually your sister, Paula. My name is Pamela.
I was with my wife and children at the red light Southwest & Cicero Ave south bound on Cicero . I could see the storm coming towads us and the car begin to shake. I drove through the red light to my parents home on Edison Ave put the wife and children into the basement & reported to work at the Oak Lawn Polie Dept where I was a patrolman. I met Chief Hein in the lobby of the station, he ordered me to get into uniform and come back to work.. I helped in the tempory morgue area & assisted in everyway needed.
did not see home again for three days, except to shower & change clothing. Found money pasted on the fence across the street from the Mac Donalds 91st & Cicero Sgt Frank Gilbert was with me at this time. Assisted in the last body located in the bus garage on 95th & Menadr Ave one of the mechanics.
Thank you for your service to the area. I didn’t live there, I was eight years old, nearing nine, watched it from our home on 82nd and Winchester Ave on the south side of Chicago. Within moments the sky went from somewhat cloudy and still some sunlight and turned to a greyish green, then was darkened to a very charcoal grey and almost black in areas as the funnel cloud descened upon the area off into the horizon. Was small at first but quickly engulfed the entire western horizon. My neighbor was outside and said to my mom after she asked what was happening, “It’s a tornado Mac, and it’s gonna be a bad one. You better get yourself and the kids into the basement.” Even though we weren’t there or near the worst of it, it was horrific enough as the sky darkened further, the winds and rain and hail began to increase and I heard noises I’d never heard and various things hitting the roof (We must have had gusts in excess of 65-80+ mph even there from what I know today via more experiences like it and living here in Florida with the few tornadoes I’ve experienced here as well as the hurricanes and chasing after the eye walls through the years.) even in the basement of our home. I really thought we were gonna die! My mother prayed like I hadn’t seen her pray before, and said for me to pray as well. Within a few minutes it was over, and she went out to check on some of her patients as she was a private duty nurse. Later on we went out to check on others together. So much damage just a few blocks away, even in our area there were downed branches and debris of all sorts. Just wasn’t as bad as it was for me then as Irma was down here when she came through in 2017. Tons of damage, weeks and months of cleanup, eight or nine days without power for myself and many neighbors and two to five weeks or more for others. Glad to hear that your wife, children, you, etc., made it safe. So many weren’t so fortunate OR smart enough to get away. Considering how deadly they are, how often they happen, it should have been part of school curriculum more than it has been through the years; especially in the areas where it’s prone to happen.
Karen Noto says
I was 5 years old when the tornado hit, but I can remember it like it happened last week. I was living in Hometown at the time, and my mom, brother and sister and I just got home from the grocery store in hometown (National) for tartar sauce(we were catholic and we didn’t eat meat on friday during lent). After we got home, my brother and I sat in the front picture window to watch the storm. My brother was a year older than me and we were playing the lightening and thunder game. Basically, it was a child’s game where each looked and listened and each time one saw lightening they got 1 point and when the other heard thunder, they got a point. My brother said “I see thunder”, which of course started an argument because I told him you couldn’t SEE thunder. Just then my mom walked in with my baby sister on her hip and looked out the window. She didn’t say a word, just grabbed me and my brother by the collars and pulled us underneath the dining room table in the kithen. You could hear it coming closer and closer. That sound will haunt me forever. I heard wood splintering and cracking, metal bending and breaking, and glass being broken. Only being 5 ,I didn’t understand what was going on. My father arrived home shortly after the tornado passed, glad to find us all alive even though the house was a mess.There was no roof, furniture that was once in our home was found in the cemetary almost a mile away and yet the table that was set for dinner hadn’t been touched.
My father told me that he just got off work and into his pick up that was parked at southwest highway and cicero, across from dog n suds. He saw the twister, hit the floor of the pickup and the storm picked up his truck, turned it 90 degrees and set it down on its wheels across the street where the dog n suds that was not there anymore. He drove as quickly as he could to get home to us, but had problems at the railroad crossing in hometown by the firehouse. He could see the metra train coming from downtown quickly, and right before the intersection by the firehouse, a whole house was lying on the tracks. Some others stopped and they thought the best thing to do was warn the train to stop, so they used jumper cables on the rails to turn the light red for the train. Luckily, the train was stopped in plenty of time to avoid hitting the house, that still had 2 people inside!
After leaving his pickup by the tracks, he ran home, (you couldn’t drive because the roads were blocked by debris and trees) hugged us kids and my mom and took me and my brother out to see if we could help anyone out. I couldn’t believe the destruction! It looked like a bomb went off. But those kinds of things don’t happen in safe, small, little Hometown…or do they? Obviously they do, and did that day with a vengence!
Mike Czerwinski says
Omg I didn’t remember that you were younger than me. I remember your name. I was 8 and also lived in hometown. 4100 w 90 th place I think. ( We moved to burbank when iwas in 4th grade). My Mom was just headed out to work as she worked evenings at Hilmans and was talking to neighbor in driveway when they saw the tornado. I had been thru the drills and as soon as she came in and said “tornado” I ran so fast and scooted under my bunk bed I in
Like record time. My dad went around and opened windows in the house. As it started we moved to the closet. I remember looking thru the closet door lovers and seeing our above ground pool in the back yard disappear as it got white / grey from debris. We heard crashes and of course the “train” sound from the beginning. After our neighbor had a huge tree in their living room from 1/2 block away. National guard were out next day. We were only 2 blocks from Pulaski where almost every house was leveled. We were very lucky that day.
Mike Czerwinski says
Karen did u go to Gaddis.? I can’t believe I saw your post. We briefly dated I think in 1982 I didn’t know u had lived in hometown around the same time I did.
Denise Chingo-Werderitsch says
I was 19 and on that Metra train coming home from work downtown…sky was black and green …I thought the train stopped because there was a roof on the tracks…oh my…was the house THAT squashed? There were people inside? I got off the train and walked to my Dad’s machine shop on Southwest Hwy…they were all ok…he drove me home to Palos Hills in a very roundabout way because the roads were impassable… such a horrible mess and terrible tragedy…
Jay C. Harn says
I was a 6 1/2-year-old first grader at Covington School on April 21, 1967. Minutes before the tornado hit, my mother and I were driving down Southwest Highway on the way to pick up my sister, who was a sophomore at OLCHS, from a girlfriend’s house near the high school. We were one of the last cars to make a right at the traffic light at the high school intersection on to 95th street. As we proceeded along I remember all the traffic stopping and seeing the funnel cloud coming straight down the street. I remember my mother turning towards me and in a matter of fact tone stating to me that “that is a tornado.” We did not sit for long, because a man from the car behind us started to pound on the driver’s side window telling us to get out. He grabbed my mother and I and we ran for the ditch at the side of the road. We got down as flat as we could and I remember feeling like I could not breath and the noise was awful as the tornado passed over us. Amazingly, afterwards our car was still there, but some of the glass was broken and it was moved sideways. My mother always believed that our car was still there because we left the doors open in our haste. We got back into the car and drove to get my sister. Powerlines and trees were down everywhere and I remember seeing a church steeple in the middle of the road. My sister and the family she was with were shocked to see us. Their house was still standing, only windows were knocked out. They had no basement, but had taken refuge in the home’s center hallway. All were cut up by flying glass, but no one had been badly hurt. We picked up my sister and steadily drove home. Our house on 50th Ave and Southwest Highway was okay, but we lost all our big elm trees and our brand new two-car garage had been flattened. My father, who was at work in Chicago left as soon as he heard the news about what had happened. He could only get as close as 87th before he had to get out of his car and run home. To this day, even now living in California, whenever I hear chainsaws it reminds me of that day in Oak Lawn. The ditch we took refuge in is no longer there, it is approximately where the Ford dealership is now.
Barbara Burns Stevens says
I was driving home from work with two coworkers. One wanted to stop and get hot dogs at the stand next to the high school and the driver was going to get gas at the gas station at 95th and SW Hwy. I thought the sky looked very odd and I was suppose to be in Oak Forest that evening for dinner at my future sister-in-law’s house. I asked the other two if they would mind driving me home so I could get my car and get out to Oak Forest. They luckily agreed and dropped me off at my house at 98th and Meade. As soon as I got in the house my Dad told us all to get in the basement. The tornado came through at that point. Our house was spared and the two coworkers were blown into a ditch but were unhurt. Needless to say we were so relieved that we did not stop at 95th and SW Hwy. that evening for gas and hot dogs. Both locations were gone. We were just minutes away from being at that intersection.
Do I know you? Were you Mrs. Burns, a schoolteacher, daughter? It would be interesting to find out.
Judy (DeKorp) Matthias says
This is the first time I’ve had a chance to talk about the tornado with anyone who lived through it. I am saddened to hear the stories of others more immediately affected by that nightmare than I was.
I had graduated from OLCHS in 1966. The day of the tornado I was 17 and attending Don Roberts Beauty School on 95th & Kedzie in Evergreen Park. It was a beautiful warm, sunny day as we left class. A classmate, (and former OLCHS classmate) Betty DeVries was leaving at the same time. We could see off in the distance to the west toward Oak Lawn, that the sky was very dark. Betty’s mom was out in front in her car, and I asked if she could drop me off on their way home so I wouldn’t have to wait for the bus and walk home in the rain that was sure to be coming down soon. Mrs. DeVries said she’d drop me off on 95th Street & 52nd Avenue, rather than driving me all the way home because she’d left her house windows opened. I believe that decision saved all of our lives.
I got out on the corner, but the wind was so incredibly strong that I couldn’t stand up straight, and I took refuge in the doorway of the Dove Candy store on the corner. Dirt and debris was hitting me in the face. We had been so close to the tornado that we had not seen it, we were only aware of wind and darkness. They went on their way, and I stood huddled in the doorway, listening to a loud roar and the sound of sirens…totally clueless, while feeling the sting of being peppered with whatever was blowing against me.
Once I could open my eyes, I stepped out of the doorway and walked the few steps to the corner. I could see police and others running out of the back side of the building on Cook Avenue. As far as I could see down 52nd Avenue, were toppled trees, power lines hanging from downed poles and draped across the trees and cars, and lying across the sidewalk and street. Cars were lying in ways I’d never seen…sideways and upside down, and the ground was littered with bricks and scraps of “stuff”.
I still had no idea what had happened, but remember running down the street sobbing hysterically as the men told me to stay back from the power lines. In a total panic, I climbed over everything in my way and kept running. When I got home (to 5223 West 92nd Street)across the street from Covington, my former elementary school, my parents and sister were waiting for me inside the house. They told me they’d been looking out the living room window when they began to see “things” up in the sky that should have been too big to be able to be blown around…portions of walls and roofs and trees, and had taken refuge in a closet in the basement. They hadn’t heard a weather report.
They never mentioned to me that there had been a tornado…I still couldn’t imagine what had happened, however I do recall spouting a mouthful of profanities for which I did NOT get clobbered! And which surprised me, since I didn’t recall ever having heard before, let alone utter! And I recall freezing that night, huddled in front of the fireplace as the wind blew snowflakes through our windows. We didn’t sleep…we listened to the sound of helicopters and chain saws all night. The next day as we went to check on other friends, I recall seeing National Guard troops.
We were more fortunate than many. Every window in our home was broken, and our house looked like a porcupine…penetrated by lumber from other homes powerfully enough to push alot of the nails in the drywall inside our home inward so the heads stuck through the paint about a half inch. Our chimney had been pulled away from the house. Our garage was gone, power tools and other garage contents scattered…some in the few trees that remained, and some laying at the bottom of our pool along with many other people’s belongings. The trunk of our cherry tree looked like someone had tried to unscrew it from the ground…it looked like the threads of a screw.
We checked on neighbors…friends who lived on the street behind us sustained much more severe damage, and people across the street from us sustained none.
I recall all of the years of hearing, “a tornado watch has been issued for Kendall, Dupage, Will, and southwestern Cook counties….” Growing up, it meant that our play was going to be cut short because rain was coming. Never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined a tornado outside of The Wizard of Oz would be a part of my life. My heart aches every time I hear of another community devastated by a tornado.
It has affected me for all my life. I grew up and moved to the Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago, where I lived on the 20th floor of a highrise on Lake Shore Drive. From that beautiful vantage point, I could see both beautiful sunsets. But I could also see thunderstorms approaching out of the west. It was awesome, yet so terrifying that I would rush to the basement of our building every time a storm would approach. Even a “watch” sent me (and eventually my children) racing for the elevator.
Living in Virginia Beach now, and preparing each May for the approaching hurricane season is extremely stressful, but still doesn’t compare to the intestine-twisting feeling that comes with seeing “a tornado watch has been issued…” crawl on my TV screen. I remain hypervigilant.
sandra j kobek says
I graduated with you Judy in 1966. My maiden name was Sandra Duffy. I had just left the shopping area at 87th and Cicero with my Mother. I took the day off work from Kole Pontiac at Southwest and Cicero. We took a cab home minutes before it hit by the overpass on Southwest and 95th. lost some neighbors who were in the grocery store Fairways. I later married and moved to Hometown and every time the siren blares from a storm I still get scared.
Judy (DeKorp) Matthias says
I accidentally referred to Raymond Ave. as Cook Ave. My apology…I moved from Oak Lawn in 1968 and just realized my error.
rich vitiritti says
Judy—Cindy wants to continue to e-mail—miss ya!
sharon geisler says
I went to Don Roberts in 1969.
Linda Yarbrough Maratea says
I was 17 and attended Don Roberts beauty school on 95th and Kedzie, another girl Jan Shaffer and my self were standing on the corner of 95th and Kedzie waiting for the bus, on a normal day I would of taken an earlier bus and my Mom would of been sitting at 95th and Southwest Hwy at the bus terminal waiting for me, my dad had bank business so for the first time since August of 1966 to storm date my routine changed, the normal bus I took was put head first in the farm house there on 95th and Southwest hwy, my Mom was at the bank with my dad, instead of the leveled bus lot, where she could of been killed in her car, we were going out for supper that nite, which never happened, I got to Oak Lawn trust and savings bank to my parents and we drove home during the very begining of the after math, it was a horrible scene. A day I will never forget. I was 2 months pregnant with my first son,
JO-ANN GIACONE SEITZINGER says
My husband and children were living in DeKalb, IL, but my parents, Babe & Joe Giacone, were living on Cass Street just parallel to SW Hwy and about a mile from the high school from which I graduated in 1959. Dad had a cigarette vending company in the Oak Lawn Bowling Alley, and they were just about to leave for home when the storm hit, so fortunately, they stayed and had dinner in the bowling alley restaurant instead where they were safe. They weren’t able to get home for several days, but lucky to find the only damage being the roof and loss of large oak trees; the home across the street was leveled, and there was a young girl still in the basement scared to death. Nobody could get in or out of Oak Lawn for several days, but we had a rural mail route and a mail truck, so we drove from DeKalb to my folks to save all the meat in their freezer. Because we did not have the TV on in DeKalb, we had no idea that a tornado had torn apart my hometown until my father called us from a Hometown Motel to tell us that they were OK. I still have the Chicago Sun Times Newspaper for that horrible day…and the destruction is just as vivid in my mind today as it was the day after the storm. God Bless Mayor Dumke; without his leadership, Oak Lawn would have been in worse straits. He was absolutely the Rock of Gibraltar.
Kathy Starr says
I survived the Oak Lawn tornado!!! It hit 1/2 block to the southeast of my family home. My Dad was home early that afternoon as my sister was to be confirmed at St Geralds that evening. My Grandma was at the house and my Dad was outside looking at the storm clouds when he rushed in the house and shouted to us all to get in the hallway and stay down. I recall holding onto my youngest sister, and looking out the living room picture window and seeing huge fire balls rolling down 91st Street. It was awful and the noise was literally like a freight train coming at us. It was very upsetting to my mom and grandma. We had no damage to the house fortunately, but friends just to the south and east of our home were not so fortunate. Luckily no one I knew died. I wanted to help, and a friend of mine and I walked over to the Mason hall and were told they didn’t need any help there. We walked home in the snow. I never want to go thru that sort of storm ever again.
Billy Fuessel says
I was 11 years old and lived with my family (Edward and Anne Fuessel and their 12 children) at 96th and Merton avenue.(The huge Colonial Cape Cod which still stands)and approx.(2 blocks East of Ridgeland)Anyhow still the most frightening day of my life!!! My father and older Brother had left the house only my 2 sisters and mom remained, As the weather that day was oddly warm and as it grew darker, we planted ourselves on the couch in front of the larger windows looking west. My mom was on the phone to one of my sisters. The phone went dead and she came into the living room curious off the very large hail… Suddenly she screamed.. those clouds, theyre spinning, tornado!!!She then ran for the basement my sisters hysterically followed.. of course me being a rambuncious young lad just had to stay and look… What I saw is set in my mind forever…. A large wavelike greenish black cloud rolling and spilling over the homes just due west of us!!!! We made it to the basement, yet enroute there was an eerie minute of calm.. followed by a progressive high pitched roar and hissing that rose in loudness, then up and down. Eventually the basement and house shook and creaked. The roar was so loud that you could barley hear things breaking upstairs. My mother pushed us under the ironing board and covered us. My sister Mary Ellen stood up hysterically calling my other sister, Kathys name.. (who lived in a small cottage next door). My mother pulled her to the floor again and we laid their in complete helplessness. Slowly, (but probably only in the real world a matter of seconds) the roar decreased.I saw from the basement windows, the blackness fade to the east and steady cold rain had begun. You could hear in the distance, faint cries of neighbors, car horns and sirens.. eerie as ever..My mother told us that there may be live wires upstairs and to stay put.. Shes feared that up those stairs was nothing!!! Suddenly we heard.. Anne are you ok?? it was our neighbor Mr Sullivan! he shouted it was ok to come out but there was much damage to the house. As we made our way up the stairs you could see out the from the sidedoor landing, the devasation,, trees, part of a volkswagon, fencing and speakers from the Starlite Drive In, wood, windows a bathtub piled 5 feet deep! I recognized nothing !!! We turned the corner through the Kitchen which seemed ok and into the living and Dining room which were devastated, open to the street like a dollhouse and filled with debris..Totally surealistic is the only way to decribe our lives that day.. My brothers and sisters arrived in droves shortly after, as did the neighbors.. Everyone appeared detached, delerious and in a total funk.. The air was thick with gas smells, wet pine, leaves and broken branch smells. it was weeks before I had realized the total devastation and changes in my life the Tornado had created!! Not until Augustof that Summer was our house completed and totally livable. My life was, as is now “Oak Lawn before and after the Tornado”. It was the first time I had seen my parents cry and I now knew that Family and that life as well as death, was very real and imminent.. I am now 51 and telling the tale remains to this day………. theraputic.
cathy conway says
I lived across the street from you Billy. My family, the Conways lived in a small brick house. I was 9 years old. I remember being called inside by my mother who huddled us into the hallway where I was crying and yelling for my dad who was sleeping because he worked the night shift. We all 8 of us were fine and the only damage to our house was that the windows blew out and everything in the garage was sucked against the garage door. For years I remember a steel garbage can was stuck into a tree and the tree grew around it which was kitty corner to our house. Recently, I was there walking around the neighborhood with my friend Patti Jo Patterson who also lived on Merton and the garbage can was gone. Our families were very lucky.
It’s nice to hear everyone’s stories.
D Hubbard says
Are you by chance related to Martin Conway? He would be about 79 and attended Simmons School. A classmate a long, long time ago.
Kathy Graham Crosas says
Cathy, I annoy sure if you remember me, Kathy Graham. You, Patti Jo, and I were friends. My parents moved to Arkansas not long after the tornado. We were in the basement with Bart Tallons family on Meade. We lived at 9839 Meade Ave. My dad was Chuck Graham and my mom Fannie. I also had a brother Chuck and my sister Cheryl. I think of you all. Wish I could find Patti too
Cathy Conway says
Hi Kathy, PattiJo lives in Arizona. Contact me through Facebook and I’ll get you her information.
I lived on Melvina and I remember that garbage can in the tree. It was on 96th Street across from the house that was demolished in the tornado at 96th and Melvina.
Vicky Hoffman Runcio says
I’m 46 yrs old. I freak-out when the weather starts to threaten, let alone watches and, God forbid…a WARNING! I have to know where my kids, family, and friends are when it gets “bad”. I get a ‘suffocated’ feeling when storms are coming and then hit. I have described “the tornado senses” to anyone who will listen: the darkness,the deafening dc-10, the smell of the mossy/earthiness, the feel of PRESSURE and panic… and I was only 6 1/2 yrs old. I remember like it was only yesterday. I cried when I read the previous testimonials of that hellish day in 1967. I understand, in the depths of my soul, the pain, OUR pain of that day. In my little 6-yr-old world, I felt that my family and home had experienced ‘the worst’. It WAS bad, but to actually hear from others about that day, my picture is getting much bigger. As I grow older and with ‘theraputic” websites as this one, can I continue to heal.
I grew-up in a duplex on the corner of Southwest Highway & Duffy ave. (Across from the firehouse). My older brother, Terry, was working on his go-cart after finishing cleaning the garage for my dad. My younger brother Dave and I were watching mom put on her make-up in our parent’s bedroom while we waited for dad to come home from work in Argo. Dinner was in the oven and the table was set. (Remember when families ate together??)It got very dark and mom turned on her dresser lamps. We were worried that it was so dark. She started to sing “April showers bring May flowers” when the lights started to flicker and went out. We could feel ‘the pressure’ at that time! She told us to “stay here” and ran to get Terry from the garage. Well, of course, we grabbed onto her pretty dress and ran to the back door to hear her YELL above the wind for him to come in! Terry said, “Look mommy! A tornado!” She screamed back, forget the…tornado, RUN!!” We all ran to the crawlspace hatch, but it had a large laundry hamper on it, too heavy for her to move it, so we ran to the hallway and mom put her body over all of us. (later she would tell us that she was thinking that ‘if we died, at least we were all together’)At that precise moment, the “wind” an understatement, slammed the hallway doors to the bedrooms and bathroom shut and the LOUDEST CRRAACKING of the roof blowing off was heard and felt because the pressure changed, once again. The sound of glass crashing was mixed-in with the wind, lumber and all that surrounded us was something that I will never forget. Shortly after that was…SILENCE. Nothing. We looked up and saw sky. No roof at all. Then, slowly, mom got us all up off the hallway floor and checked to see that we were alright. Not A Scratch On Any Of Us!!!! Mom said, (I don’t remember), Gramma ran to the front door, (after what seemed a while), to see if we were okay. She lived down the block. Mom was in shock, literally, and gram thought she was going to ask her in for coffee, she was so calm! Dad couldn’t get to us because the roads were blocked-off. He left his car about 91st & SW Hwy and ran to our house, to find us all okay. He wrote on the outside of our house with a big red pen “4267 All OK” so that the rescuers wouldn’t need to look for bodies. Our favorite Willow tree that our tire swing was on, looked like someone took a saw and cut a slice at the trunk. Gone. Our garage and its contents were completely gone. The driveway neighbor lost a few pieces of her siding and for the next three houses were unscathed. The Fifth house was obliterated except for one wall with the family china still there, untouched. Sadly,they lost their family pet, Bonnie, a cute neighborhood dog.
We lost everything physical in the tornado. The fiberglass insulation penetrated every fiber of the house;nothing was salvageable. The only things we owned were on our backs. Mom & dad have ALWAYS said, they ‘wish they could thank the insurance adjustor for the way he handled everything’. He said he had a wife and children of his own. He cried with my parents, and took money out of his own pocket to get shoes/clothes for us. What a Blessed man! Thank you, whoever you were! We lived in a hotel for two weeks, then stayed at my gram’s house for the summer while they completely rebuilt out house, the HOME, where my parents still call home. I get emotional when I tell this story. I praise God that I, we, are here to tell it. He is Good, He has a plan for us, for Good and not bad, to give us a future and a hope. Life goes on. LIFE is GOOD.
I’m sitting here on this rainy Friday morning, 44 years +one day after that horrific night, crying my way through these amazing stories. Thank you, Vicky, for your vivid account. Reading about your retro-style family life, and your moms protection of you and your siblings adds so much sweetness to the bitter memories in your story. I just had my husband read your post and even he was in tears by the end of it. Possibly my favorite part is your tried and true “God is good” perspective. Amen! 🙂
Dave Hoffman says
I was only 2 1/2 at the time and to be honest, I do not remember a thing. I have been told my entire life the story you read just above this, from my sis, my bro and my mom and dad. We do however still have the 8 mm movies to prove what happened to our home. It is incredible to me that anyone could have survived in our house. From the home movies, I can tell you that the garage in which my brother stood moments before was in fact torn from the foundation and just plain gone. The concrete floor was the only reminder of the garage. Most of the house roof was gone and our T.V was in the neighbors back yard. As the camera pans down S.W.Hwy. toward Cicero, you can see a fire burning with plumes of black smoke, I remember always asking ” is that the tornado?” Of course that movie was filmed the day after and it was probably debris being burned intentionally. I always get an eerie feeling watching that movie especially the big red writing on the front of the house that read 4267 ALL OK. And how incredible that our house sustained so much damage, yet our next door neighbor 20 feet away had only broken windows and a small corner of the siding missing. As the camera moves a few houses down, just as my sister reported, another neighbor who was on vacation and had their house closed up, pretty much exploded with one interior wall standing with cabinets intact still holding dishes! My cousin Scott Zukowski was aprox. 10 yrs. at the time and told me he was at hi – lo foods in the Hometown shopping center and actually watched the twister come down S.W Hwy. I have always wanted to share this video with anyone who would like to see it and I would be happy to make copies on video tape. Therefore, I am leaving my E mail address for contact.
I have never really been afraid of storms since, and I actually wish I would have become a storm chaser. I was fortunate to see the tornado that hit the Palos Forest Preserves back around 1991. I was at 79th st. and Narragansett. But I will be honest, I sat here and cried like a big 43 year old baby when I read all of the accounts above. God bless all who suffered any loss that day, and I hope that none of us ever experiences anything of that magnitude again!
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and again God bless us all!
I did not live in Oak Lawn at that time and was 7 yrs old when this happened. I lived by Midway Airport & my aunt & uncle lived there where it all happened. They had minor damage only & were very lucky. My sister was supposed to have an orthodonist appointment that evening ( like #3 Jackie-was it Dr. Konie?)but was making her Confirmation that night & had to cancel (makes me really wonder about the higher powers). My aunt & uncle told us the roof blew off that building & was pretty messed up. My father took me the next day to visit my aunt & uncle & what I saw was (I have a very good memory-too good sometimes) to also make me fear tornados forever to this very day. It was like a battlefield. Too horrible to even describe. The Roller Rink, The High School & yes The Starlight Drive In. I am happy for everyone who survived this & hope the bad memories go away one day for those who lost loved ones in this disaster.
Debbie smith says
I was in the roller rink for practice that day along with my sister and friends. I recall someone yelling to take cover we went under a bench.My sister got out first and a fireman dug me out and took me in his car to christ hospital and I met my sister there. We were okay bruised cut and shaken up and very sad to have lost 2 good friends and our friends mother. Many years later, that same fireman returned my skates to me he held on to them for years, till he found me and I got to thank him.The memories will always be vivid in my mind something that will never go away. I have a great respect for storms.
Ronald Woods says
Debbie I was standing on the corner of 79th and Cicero waiting for a bus to take me to the rink that day for practice. I would meet up with Dave Norkus every day and we would ride the bus there. That day my CTA bus ran late and I missed the suburban bus. I still get sad when I think about Mrs Hanley and Dave and Christine being lost because of the tornado. I hope you have as many good memories of the rink as I do. There were many fine people who skated there over the years.
Rowena Countryman says
Hi Debbie its Rowena,I was also a fellow skater, I remember that day like it was yesterday my family lived across the street from you on 88th st, and we drove your mom to the rink after the tornado hit because your mom came over and said that your dad had went to pick you a Diane up from the rink and had not returned in a timely manner. We drove as far as 87th and Cicero and then had to walk to 91 to the rink because everything was shut down. When we arrived at the what used to be the rink it was three feet tall I never want to see anything like that again. My husband Jack and I and our oldest son Jason still are competitively skating and coach the speed team at Fleetwood Roller rink in Summit , Dicki Brenn skates with us and we see his sisters who were in the rink when tornado hit Sheri and Debbie. Take care
At that time I was 4 years old. We lived in Hometown, just off of Pulaski and Duffy. I remember my sister, brothers and myself 4 of us total, were eating fudgesicles in the Kitchen, which our Mom had just given us. The skies turned greenish in color. Suddenly all the wind stopped. Just then we heard a rumbling sound like a train, we lived close by the tracks and heard that all the time. Suddenly all the wind started up agin and I remember looking out the window into the back yard to see all the lawn chairs start flying away. Our Mom grabbed our fudgesicles and threw them in the sink. We were all crying because we didnt want to stop eating them. Our Mom ran us into the bedroom and shoved me and my sister under the Bunkbeds( I thought about that when I was about 10 or 11 years old and wondered how anybody could of fit under them, boy was it tight). After all the rumbling and crashing noises stopped, we all went outside to see what a mess the neighborhood was. There had been a large tree across the street that had been ripped out of the ground and dropped across the street blocking traffic and almost hitting our house by inches. I can remember my dad and all the neighbors grabbing the tree and all those men together lifted it enough to move it off the street. I also remember later that day as our mom drove us around to get groceries, seeing a car perched up against a tree in the cemetary
Dennis Durkin says
I was 7 years old at the time. I went to St Gerald’s grammar school (2nd grade) and lived at 8804 S. 55th avenue (aprox 87th & Central). I remember vividly that day as we were getting ready to eat dinner as my father just got home from work. As we sat down at the table all of a sudden it became very dark and started raining and hailing and we could see the funnel go right over our house as we looked out the big picture window in our dining room. I then remember my father screaming at us to get in the house as my brothers sister and myself were running outside collecting the HUGE ice hailballs that were as big as baseballs that were left. We stored them in our freezer. It all happened sooooo fast, and seemed to be over in a matter of minutes. I then found out that my Aunt & Uncle’s home on Tulley Ave right off of Southwest Hgwy got the roof torn off and my school was destroyed. A girl that i went to school with (Bernadette Brady) got killed along with her father as their station wagon got picked up and tossed by the funnel as they were driving down 95th street. Ill never forget as we drove by my school seeing the white metal hand towel machines hanging off the wall where the bathroom on the 2nd floor was.
see pic at link:
Since St Geralds was destroyed, it would take at least a whole year to rebuild so I had to go to the rest of 2nd and the entire 3rd grade at Burbank Manor school in Burbank.
What I really remember from all this and what alot of people have also commented on is considering some buildings were totally devestated, some often just feet away and right next door some were left totally unscathed. It was very wierd almost as if the tornado picked what and whom it layed its rath upon. After seeing all these old pics and reading all the stories really brought all the memories back as if it was just a few weeks ago. Thanks to everyone here for posting their memories as they brought me back in time.
Nancy Fewkes says
I went to St. Gerald’s with you and Bernadette was my friend also, my classmate and neighbor who lived on the next block, Major. I remember we were about to make our First Communion at St. Geralds in early May, and that Bernadette was buried in her communion dress.
After school that day, Patty Christofano, who was my neighbor on Parkside Ave., and I walked to the mailbox on Major and had our umbrellas blown inside out because the wind was so crazy that day. It was raining while the sun was out, and very windy. We saw Bernadette outside her house on our way to the mailbox.
My memories of the tornado start when I heard my mom shouting from the kitchen (she was making meatless spaghetti since it was a Friday) through the house for the kids to get in the basement. She saw the tornado coming out the kitchen window and said it looked like it was headed right for us.We could see out the basement windows that the sky was green as we headed into the crawlspace. We all cried and prayed, as we listened to the roar of the storm and bumps and thuds outside. When all was quiet again, we headed back out and saw that our house was still standing. There was a car fender in out tree and debris around the neighborhood. A couple blocks down the street, the Pecors were trapped in their basement since their house was demolished. My dad was coming home from work and couldn’t get into the town with his car either. He had to leave his car and walk home to find out whether we were still alive. We all cried when he got home.
I know that two of Bernadette’s sisters were in the car with them, and that they survived. I remember our second grade teacher, Mrs. Shemanaur, crying at the site of Bernadette’s empty desk when we returned to school. We all prayed in class for her, and I remember going to her funeral at St. Gerald’s church. Also, most of the people in Oak Lawn spent time cleaning up in different areas of the town and helping out. I remember my family cleaning up debris around Covington School.
I hope you are well. I am very terrified of tornadoes.
Sheryl Kressel Bechard says
This is Sheryl Kressel-Bechard. I lived on Parkside and went to St. Gerald’s too. Your brother Dave and my brother Dave were friends. Was just thinking about your family the other day. Contact me sometime.
Patty Cristofano says
Nancy, it’s your ok’ friend and former neighbor Patty Cristofano from Parkside Ave. I remember the bulk of what happened, but you remembered more than I. I truly remembered that memorable day the way you described it. That day was a beautiful April day and we were able to come home from school and change into summer/spring clothes. When you and I walked to the mailbox(what’s that?) and our umbrellas turned inside out because of the strong winds, we looked at each other and said “let’s get moving”! When we got home, all I remembered was my mom yelling “Get inside ‘cause there’s a terrible storm coming!” Sorry, I don’t remember what she was cooking for dinner! I’m sure your mom was a wonderful cook! My dad was on a car day trip to Galesburg, IL driving home about 5:45pm with our brand new Chevrolet car 1967 and he had heard about the tornado originally starting in Belevedere, IL at the HS killing those kids on the bus at 3:30pm then it was spotted by someone at the Little Red School in Palos Park traveling down SWHighway and the rest is history. You said your dad couldn’t get directly to your home probably because of the National Gaurd. My dad when he came by Genaro drug at 87th & Central, he was told by them to leave his car and walk 4 blocks. When my mom told the 3 out of 4 of us, “Your father is home!” after all of the tragedy, he came through the back door crying and hugging everyone thinking we were hurt or worse, dead. My mom told me that the Pecor’s home were demolished except the confirmation cake that sat on the table! How funny in a way. Fortunately my brother Mike was being driven home from library that day by Mrs Harker with Jack Burns and Steve harker; the storm got so horrible that they had to stop and dive to the floor of Nize’s, little store on 95thSt that’s no longer there. Mike got home right after the storm was over. I tell you; it was so traumatic! We were so lucky to have had great parents that cared for us and loved us. Then the day after, snow! We were fortunate that we didn’t have much damage with your home, ours, Ritter’s an McGuigan’s. Take care my sweet dear friend! I guess I remembered more than I thought!
Pat Cristofano says
Hey Dennis, we finished only 2nd grade at St Gerald’s and made our Communion in May 1967. Then from September 1967-June 1968, we were bussed to Burbank Manor Presbyterian Church for 3rd grade. THEN, we all returned to Gerald’s for 4th grade. I was happy to get back to our old stomping ground!
Pat Cristofano says
Hey Dennis! You forgot that we made our 1st Holy Communion and finished out 2nd grade at Gerald’s. Then we were all bussed for 3rd grade to Burbank Manor. Remember? Hope all is well. Take care!
I was only 2 months old at the time, but I have been fascinated by tornadoes because of the Oak Lawn tornado and the stories told about it. I can tell what my mother recalls about this day….We lived in Bridgeview near 88th/Harlem. Like many in the area, she thought Lake Michigan somehow protected us from tornadoes, so what was about to unfold that afternoon was the furthest thing from her mind. My mom would always say that the clouds that day looked different than she’d ever seen before…eerie…dirty, and very very low hanging in the sky. In the late afternoon, I had awoken from a nap and my 10 yr. old brother was looking out the window at the storm. He yelled for my mom to come to the window and take a look at something weird he saw in the distance. She didn’t go to look as she was in the middle of changing my diaper. Finally when my mother heard radio reports of a tornado ripping through Oak Lawn and hitting the high school, she became alarmed and took us into an interior hallway of our home. My mom was also worried as my sister was taking late classes at Oak Lawn H.S. and my sister planned to head to my grandmother’s house in Burbank after school that day. The was no dial tone to make any phone calls. Luckily my sister had left before the tornado hit the school. It was after all this that my mom realized that it must have been the tornado my brother saw at the window. My uncle who lived in Burbank, had just stepped outside that afternoon and noticed a bad storm was coming. He smoked a pipe at the time and he said the smoke from his pipe went straight up in the air as if being sucked up by a vacuum. He thought this was very odd and took it as an ominous sign and headed back inside. My mother said a couple days after the tornado, there was a light snow.
Nancy B says
I was 5 yrs old at that time, but i remember standing at the corner of Byron and Lockwood with my mom waiting for my brother Andy to come home from school. As i looked south i could not believe how black the sky was, I found out many years later that this storm system streched for 40 miles which is why we saw it on the Northwest side of Chicago. When my brother came home he had a horrible look on his face,my mother asked what was wrong, Andy said that him and his friend were looking out the window at school and his friend saw a funnel cloud,they tried to tell the teacher but no one would listen.Thank god it didnt touch down.
Nancy B says
Over the years I have talked to many people who lived through that day. The worst story i heard was from a lady who lived in Oak Lawn with her 2 daughters. She said the wind had picked up and when she went ot close the kitchen windows. She saw the tornado coming she grabbed her kids and headed for the basement, as she was going by the window she saw her neghibor coming home from work.And tried to warn him but he was sucked up in the funnel his body was found 3 days later. She told me her daughters spent many years in therapy after seeing this happen.
At the time, I lived in Chicago on 86th and Central Park right next to Evergreen Cemetery . When the tornado hit, I remember my father grabbing me and my brother and running us with my Mother down to the basement. That year I was about 3, and too young to know the danger. While my father carried us down to the basement, I was holding my plate and fork and eating. I saw the funnel cloud and our garage roof get ripped apart. As many say, it sounded just like a freight train.
After it passed, all of the neighbors were checking on each other. In those days, a block was an extended family. We all had each othersâ€™ house keys. There were 6 to 10 children in each family, and the mothers didn’t work. This world has certainly changed. Since then I have seen 6 tornadoes. The 1967 Oak Lawn one was the closest, loudest, and largest by far. I always keep a place in the basement clear to duck and cover in.
Thank you for your time.
I lived at 3615 W 86th. We would burn a witch on Central next to the tracks after marching down the street from Parkview Civic Center on Halloween.
Anyway, we watched the tornado pass while crouched in a hallway. I could see the stuff flying thru the air. Yes, the sound was frieght train with lots of wind. I was about 3 1/2 yrs old. Afterward i remember the 2×4’s jammed into the lawns, and also a mattress in the front yard. It seemed to smell like rain and Pine. For years following i would have to vomit when the tornado sirens went off.
Jeanna Peacock says
I lived on W. 89th Place. We were playing outside and my dad came out with a frantic look on his face and wanted us to come in. We complained, of course, until we saw what he was looking at (it was by the High School). The sky was green, it was huge with a lot of debree flying in it. I have never forgotten that sight till this day. I live in south Alabama now and routinely give tornado warnings/watches to the neighborhood. They all think I am crazy, but if they were in the Oak Lawn Tornado, they would understand why I am the way I am.
Curt O'Hara says
I was 7 years old at the time of the tornado and lived in Worth, IL, but my grandfather’s house was directly across from the old O.L. bus garage near 95th & Menard. The tornado passed directly over Worth just before 5:30 PM, and the sky was almost black. We heard on the radio that a tornado was heading toward the bus garage, and so my dad (who was heading back from work somewhere on 95th Street) began to attempt to drive to my grandfather’s house but was initially blocked by police. Since he was a relative they let him into the area, and he helped pull my grandfather out of the rubble after the storm. We still have a picture from the Southtown Economist of my dad along with other rescue workers carrying my grandfather on a stretcher.
My grandfather had built his house (by hand) on Menard in the 30’s, and he said he was heading to his basement when he heard the nails on the roof of his porch being pulled out by the force of the wind, and that it sounded like a freight train was racing by. He did not remember anything beyond that, and he had a few broken ribs as a result of the destruction. A refrigerator also fell on his legs, and he had trouble walking the rest of his life. His house was leveled. Later that year, a house was built on his lot & we moved from Worth to Oak Lawn into the newly-built house.
My uncle (my grandfather’s brother) owned the house next door to him on Menard, and he and my aunt were in Norway at the time of the tornado. This was a good thing, because their house was also destroyed & the water main broke which completely flooded their basement. Had they been home & sought refuge in the basement, they would have drowned.
For a long time I wanted to become a meteorologist because of the impact that the tornado had on me. Although I live in Colorado now (near Denver, where tornados rarely occur), I am ever-conscious of when the skies turn â€œgreenâ€ (which is what I remember seeing in 1967). For many years after the 1967 tornado, whenever a tornado watch or warning was issued, I would watch the sky to the southwest to see what color it was.
Rob Studer says
We were living on 89th Place in Hometown at the time and through the years we’ve kept the memory of the tornado alive whenever we get to talking about days gone by. My parents had completed an addition to the duplex in 1965, and we had one of the bigger homes on the block (in Hometown any addition made you one of the bigger houses on the block). I do remember the sky having extraordinary colors and shades that day, with greens, purples, black and some red before being called into the house by Mom as she was very much concerned about the pending storm. The clock ticked closer towards 5:30, and my Dad’s expected arrival from work. On any usual Friday, we probably would have been soon after that all in the car (Mom, Dad, and 6 kids) heading out for the Bank, and sometimes afterwards to Dutchies on 95th Street or McDonalds on Kedzie (have never ever gotten to liking tartar sauce, and always on Fridays having to get a fish sandwich). However, Dad was nowhere close to being home. Hail and heavy rain had delayed traffic on the Tri-State Tollway, so he was in traffic as the storm moved in from the southwest. As Dad later explained it, he should have been at the intersection of 95th Street and Southwest Highway at around 5:30. Thankfully he was not, and in fact I did not see Dad until Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Mom summoned all of the kids into the house. My oldest sister was just getting out of the bathtub and drying off when Mom, sensing the wind picking up, yelled up for her to come down “now!”. The weather quickly worsened and as described by others, the sound of a freight train passing by surrounded us. Mom had us all lying on the floor in the front room as there was no time to get into the crawlspace, and quite honestly, think most of us would have balked at that anyway. I do remember Mom over all of us, shielding us with her body and doing her best to hold us all together as we clustered together, some crying, all praying for deliverence from the storm. Those prayers were answered. For what seemed a very long time, but in fact was just minutes, the strom passed. Then there was the eerie calm afterwards and in the fading light Mom could slightly see the wreckage around us. It was soon dark, and made darker by the loss of electricity to the neighborhood. We were all huddled still inside, perhaps in some state of shock about what just happened. Time seemed to be taking its toll too that day, as Mom was consumed with her concern about Dad, and him not being home there. About an hour after the storm, the front door opened. It was my uncle, Mom’s brother, who lived just north of Scottsdale on 79th Street, and who had gotten as close to us as 87th Street between Cicero and Pulaski, and had to walk the rest of the way, over downed but still hot power lines. The embrace of my Mom and uncle is perhaps the most indelible image I have from my childhood, as the tears and few words at his discovering that we were alright was a relief from the destruction he had seen on his way to our house. He had the presence of mind to bring a flashlight with him, and that made our departure that evening easier. He and my aunt had temporary custody of 5 kids for the weekend as Mom, Dad, and my older brother stayed behind to pick up after the storm. Aside from losing windows upstairs on the addition, and some tree limbs on the tree in the backyard, we came through the storm much better off than many in Hometown and Oak Lawn. Half of the duplex across the street from us was in shambles, thankfully the owners were not seriously injured. Another house on the street had walls ripped out of it. Now that I think about it, the north side of the street had more damage than the south side, or at least that’s what one could tell from the street. I remember too that homecoming on the following Sunday that there was snow on the ground. Our homecoming was the day we all reunited as a family, and we lived in Hometown for another year before moving to New Jersey with Dad accepting a new opportunity. Mom and Dad still live in New Jersey, and my 4 sisters are still there, and my brother and I have progressed farther from the nest (he’s in AZ, I just recently moved back to the DC area from CA). I can’t say with 100% certainty that the tornado was the reason, but today I am working as part of the team at NASA/NOAA that oversees the design, integration and test, and launch of the GOES satellites, which as a public domain satellite, broadcasts real-time images and data of the atmosphere commonly seen on the Weather Channel or local weather broadcasts. These images and data form space, along with data from other enhanced weather data systems such as ground based radar (Doppler), have greatly improved the weather forecasting capability here in the US.
There have been numerous tornadoes since Oak Lawn/Hometown, but that one incident has had a profound effect on anyone who survived it. As a group, we’re probably the first, as survivors, to not guess at Mother Nature and her storms, but to respect the power of the storm and take cover sooner rather than later. As part of the GOES team, that’s part of our mission: to provide accurate and timely data, and in the end, to save lives.
Hometown in our memories is 89th Place, Patterson Park, Our Lady of Loretto, the Library, the trains, Hometown Shopping Center with Kreske’s and the Hi-Lo, and the numerous friends and acquaintances that have either passed on or moved out of the town, but with whom we share this same experience. Over the years when someone asks “What’s your hometown?”, and you reply “Hometown”, it’s often that you get that funny look until you tell them, yes, there actually is a Hometown, Illinois.
susan culp says
I was 6 years old that year the tornado hit. We lived on Monitor Ave. just one block from the high school. I remember the loud sound of screaching that hurt my ears to hear. My four brothers and I plus our dog was in the hallway but after it was over, my dad took us to see the damages done. The high school, down southwest highway seeing a roof totally intact but upside down on the neighbors home and the house that was next door to my uncles inlaws was gone. Devastation never leaves your memory. This was a big devistation that year for everyone in the area and who was caught in it.
Matthew P. Dillon says
I will never forget this day. I was only 7 years old and had
stayed home from school that day. My family lived (for
over 50 years) on West Oak Street directly behind what for
many years was The Oak Lawn Village Hall. Oak Street
is essentially 94th St. which was very close to the “epicenter”
of this tornado. I snuck out of the house to go to a neighborhood store with my friend (Danny) who lived next door. My Mother was unaware we had left the house as
we exited via the basement door and through the backyard to 95th street as we headed toward Southwest Highway. Needless to say from the perspective of a 7 year old I could tell something was “amiss”….. The sky was black..then turned green as we left Knies (the store we left the safety of my parent’s basement for in pursuit of balloons and 7 year olds fantasies) quite quickly winds
became so intense I was hanging on to a street sign parallel to the street at what was Raymond Avenue near
the Village Hall. I still do not know how we made it back to the house directly behind the Village Hall. However, WE
BOTH DID! My Mother was hysterical (a woman not known
to get emotional in mist situations) and was as understandable wreck. Our home was untouched….but
the house on teh corener at 52nd Street and most of that
area was leveled. My father was in New York City on business and returned that day and had to WALK home from 87th and Cicero to our home. I remember him
holding me in his arms as I slept in THEIR BEDROOM
(NEVER BEFORE) when he finally arrived home. We were the lucky ones that fateful day that I will NEVER FORGET……….. Thank You to the powers that made
Lou Brancaccio says
Gymnastics practice at Oak Lawn High School was always a grind. This particular Friday –shortly after classes finsihed — would be no different. We’d head over to the secondary gym, put up the equipment, and begin working out. But then our coach called off practice. He needed to help at a track meet at the school that day. As a junior, I was happy to get a little earlier start to the weekend. At home for dinner, the sky suddenly darkened, it became silent and still and then it hit. We were lucky, the tornado bounced over our home. As a few us began to walk the devastated streets of Oak Lawn, we came to our high school. It was almost completely destroyed. But then we found something strange. Very strange. Across Southwest Highway from the high school, where the football team sometimes practiced, we found several pieces of wood. It was part of the bleachers from the gym we would have been practicing in, if gymnastics practice hadn’t been called off.
This is about the tornado that happened during a spring outbreak in April of 1967.
It has been referred to me, by the person I predicted it to an hour before it happened, at the last class of the day, as;”(Benafia) You and your tornado!” Nearly two dozen people died in my town. Now I have learned it was 33 deaths.
Anyone who has been in this kind of natural disaster, might recall how reality seemed turned on its head. That day National Guard rifles were pointed at we kids as we walked down the middle of the street. (Where you were told to walk; not near stores. We had been out checking on some of our relatives and friends.)
Sirens went on and on. There is no power and so no news but rumors. When I got home from the terrifying normal trip to the store to get pop for my terminally ill step brother who was working, favorite trees were gone. We got that pop to him at the job (I worked there on weekends, Friday evening, Saturday and 2am Sunday morning to sometimes afternoon ($1.00 an hour). Anyway, in the parking lot at his work there was a two by four going right through someones windshield. Debris was everywhere.
Earlier we had left home for the four block walk to the store after an exceedingly wicked electrical storm just passed and it cleared up a bit.
But while in the grocery store, a man ran in saying there’s a funnel cloud outside. I was an avid weather watcher, so I went out on 95 street to look and could not fathom the odd sloped wall dragging down from the sky to the west.
Two step brothers and a sister went back into the store with me. I thought, man, is this ever the worst palace to be. That jet and train engine combo roar seemed to shake the air. It went pitch black. I reached out and touched someone. I said; “George. Is that you?” He said” Yeah. It is getting hard to breathe.”
I had never heard of this phenomenon before. I prepared for the onslaught of glass and cans before the roof came down. Suddenly, dying seemed close at hand. Then light came back through the store windows, and rushing outside, the clouds were whirling in the opposite direction as I last looked. Pieces of fences and all kinds of tree debris and metal objects were on the road.
When we got to near the high school, total devastation started. The cement gymnasiums pool roof had gone into the pool. We walked on beams looking and listening, since someone said they heard a voice in the water. A young girl in a trench coat was picking up surviving whiskey bottles from a liquor store, and hiding them in her long coat.
You could see through town as if a mysterious trail has been blazed where buildings and homes once were. We heard horror stories from just moments before; someone impaled out in the athletic field. A bus was upside-down on top of a three story house left standing. The bus stations collapse killed some(?). And now another storm was starting to form, so we had to head home 5 blocks away north. Our house was missed by about one block.
A stepbrothers swimming team friend was in the emergency room, his face wrapped, not knowing if he would see again. His dad had picked him up from practice. My stepbrother when visiting him a day(?) later, was not to tell him his father died being sucked out of the car window at the intersection. That is how I remember hearing it.
There was a famous shot of my grammar school damaged where the tornado lifted enough to stop destroying homes, (except mobile homes a mile further up, at least 1 death there.). If you ever happen to see it, 16 year old me was standing right behind that photographer at that moment. I took six roles of film on some cheap little spy camera from Japan that I had never tried before. Never developed the hundred or so photos, as the little roles of film vanished in time.
The tornado killed the huge elm trees that were the landmark in our front yard. Our trustworthy large apple tree split in half. We had to climb through it to get to the house.
The east west highway was blocked for a while as chainsaws growled away on the widest Elm that split in half. You could see those Elm trees from up to ten(?) miles away, when up on the other side of the moraine deposit on the other side of old glacial Lake Chicago. They were a plume of green rising above a sea of green. An underground stream happened to flow beneath them, they always had all the water they wanted. My father had said to us as kids that they were invincible, lasting all these years being often hit by lightning and ferocious storms. One myth ended, very near his own vincible (month later suicide) end.
As it turns out that tornadic day, another high school in session about an hour or more before was hit. That town had even more casualties I believe, leaving that tornado I was in, kinda off the Weather Channels radar when I watched a special on it of that days outbreak.
Ours was a wedge tornado in the photo and the one side I could see, must have been F3+, (just learned F-4)the radar image shown in coming papers (as I recall), had it seeming to have its own spiral band of storms feeding into it, (the prior intense lightning storm?)leading me to believe it was so well organized and long lasting that it may have been the same storm that hit the other school.
A very shy guy (me) blurting out; “There’s going to be a tornado!” to the kid next to him, I believe, picked up on the subconscious currents that some of us know, moves between those of us open to receive them.
Lake Michigan. That is what I believe was the savior that day. Once cool and more stable air got sucked in off the waters large mass, it stopped as a plug on that hyper intense uplift of hot humid air. Why Chicago’s downtown is virtually safe from a tornado, but I would never say, given the right wind speeds angle and storm formation development, that it is an absolute impossibility.
Working as a volunteer on clean-up after the storm, changed my perception on what being a human in this world of life and humanity, is all about. It is about being there for one another.
Angie Barbaro says
The day the tornado struck Oak Lawn is truly a day I won’t ever forget. I was driving home from work following a co-worker. Her station wagon came to an underpass and she was about 2 car lengths in front of me. The sky was a very strange green color and the car radio commentator was saying to keep a watch for tornadoes as there were several around. As she passed through the underpass I saw the wheels of her car leave the ground about a foot. She continued to sail through the underpass. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I followed her through the underpass and have no idea if my car left the road or not. Several days later when we were back at work, I commented to her about her car leaving the ground and she said I was the second person to tell her about it. This was not my imagination, her car did leave the road, but fortunately she was not injured. My mother’s boss died in his car as it was picked up and thrown several miles off his route.
What was astonishing to see on TV was the devastation wrought by the tornadoe. A house had no roof. A reporter was standing in the kitchen of the home and there was only sky above. But unbelieveable as it was, there were tiny figurines on the top of the refrigerator that couldn’t have weighed more than a ounce and they were still standing in a straight line. The roof above them was gone, but the figurines weren’t touched at all.
My aunt and dad were in that tornado.My dad was at work and my aunt and her mom were at home.They lived in palos hills and the tornado hit there house. they were inside but they were okay.its was a miracle.I saw pictures and the whole house was in pieces nothing was left.
Carole Janik says
I was 5 years old and living in Oak Lawn on 89th Place just west of Ridgeland Ave. I was in a.m. kindergarten and had spent the afternoon after school with my mom and little sister Janet at a friend of my mom’s house when my mom said we had to get going because the sky started to look threatening. We traveled home from her friend’s house via Southwest Hwy. (that’s all I can remember, as I moved from Oak Lawn when I was 9), and I remember the sky getting eerily dark when we pulled into our driveway. My mom hurried us up to get in the house and into the basement quickly (I stopped and picked a red tulip from our little flower garden in the front yard on the way, I still remember). We hid in the basement behind the couch down there and my mom had a transistor radio going to try and get weather reports. I remember it being really dark down there. It hit about a mile away from our house, and thankfully our house was spared. We could have been stuck right in the path of it had we left my mom’s friend’s house just a little later. My grandma was in the town of Oak Lawn getting her hair done and was under the dryer when the electricity went out. She saw the tornado pass by, but it didn’t hit the hair salon where she was.
I still have a very keen interest in tornadoes and severe weather, and hope to go on a tornado chase some day. I just don’t want to see one destroy anyone’s home or business, or hurt or kill anybody.
I was 20 yrs old and I’ll never forget it. My Dad saw it coming; we ran into the basement. It turned from 79th St. We used to go skating at the roller rink in Oak Lawn, and to the Starlight Drive-In. My girlfriend’s family lost their whole trailer and all their belongings when it demolished the trailer park on Cicero. It was a nightmare. Can’t believe it’s been 41 years!
I was 7 years old and I remeber the tornado was right across the street from me on my block. My father was at work and was not allowed to go and see if we were okay because of the police guards. He thought we were dead and it was a frightening expierence.
Barb Kamper says
I picked my daughter Carole up from Lieb Elementary School at lunchtime after morning kindergarten with my other daughter Janet, who was almost 3 years old. We went home to have lunch and then left for my friend Betty’s house, who lived at approximately 96th or 97th, just east of Central. We stayed there perhaps 3 hours, and then I decided we better start heading home so I could start supper. On the way home, we had to stop at the light at 95th and Southwest Hwy. I noticed the sky was changing to a yellowish-greenish color. It was such a strange mix of colors so out of the ordinary. It was about 5 o’clock. We got home, and I turned on the radio because I thought we were going to get a bad storm, but I never at that point thought we were going to get a tornado. They forecasted a severe thunderstorm warning. I took both girls downstairs to the basement. We played games and the girls played with toys. Suddenly, I could hear the winds pick up. I turned the radio back on and heard that a tornado had gone through Oak Lawn. Little did I know it hit about a mile to a mile and a half from our house. They said that the high school had been hit, and the south wall was down, as well as a supermarket and the bus barn. My sister-in-law was a math teacher at the high school. My mother was having her hair done at a beauty shop in Oak Lawn on 95th St. The pressure from the storm blew out the transom window above the door. She could not get home down 95th St. because of all the debris. She was rerouted east to Cicero and 95th, and took Cicero to 87th St., and then 87th St. west to Ridgeland. The national guard was immediately called in, and no one could get in toward the area where we lived without showing ID that they actually lived there to deter looting. The next day we took a ride to see what damage we could, but they wouldn’t let you through heavily damaged areas.
Ruth Warnas says
I was 21 years old, a senior at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, some 325 miles southwest of Oak Lawn, and first learned of the tornado on the 10 pm news. Of course, no phone calls were going through to the area, and I had no status at all until a friend called me from Chicago in the middle of the night, saying only that she thought my family was â€œOK.â€ There was nothing to do at that point but to jump into my beat-up â€˜56 Chevy and head north, with little more than gas money in my purse. Serious mechanical problems ensued, and I limped along as far as Springfield where I finally sought help. As soon as the garage owner heard me say â€œOak Lawnâ€ and â€œtornado,â€ and sensed my frantic need to get home, this wonderful man actually agreed to trust me to mail payment for the repairs the following week! I finally reached Oak Lawn on Sunday morning.
Full realization of the utter devastation didnâ€™t hit until I began to encounter military checkpoints at the Oak Lawn outskirts; fortunately my driverâ€™s license still showed our Oak Lawn address, or I might have been denied access. Zigzagging as directed by the National Guard, it took over an hour to reach our neighborhood at 94th St. & 51st Ave. Due to fallen trees, I had to abandon my car several blocks from our home and walk. Approaching our street, I glimpsed a sign on the front door, which I feared said â€œcondemned,â€ but was greatly relieved to find instead that it indicated â€œhabitable!â€ At that moment, I saw Mother walking down from my grandparentâ€™s home a scant block away — we both began to run, collapsing into each otherâ€™s arms.
Our property had 11 majestic oak trees — one was split and laid atop our 2-story house. Miraculously this sturdy old brick bungalow, directly in the tornadoâ€™s swath, survived fairly intact, with the exception of roof incursion and many cracks in the plaster walls. My grandparents lived less than a block north, at the corner of SW Highway & 51st Ave., and sustained very little damage.
At night, I heard strange noises coming from the walls, and feared something might be collapsing — my mother finally figured out that squirrels had gotten into our attic!
I remember a representative of our church, Pilgrim Faith Congregational, only 2 doors south, stopping by to present my parents $50 in cash â€œto tide them over.â€
I believe it was on Monday April 24th that the snow came — quite rare for so late in the year. A crew came with a crane that day, booted us out of the house for safety, and lifted the oak tree off the roof. One of the emergency crew members was a young man from Makanda, a small town near Carbondale, and asked that I phone his parents when I returned to school to let them know he was OK.
We spent many hours in the yard chopping debris with axes, and by the time I returned to my part-time job at the Universityâ€˜s TV station, my fingers were so stiff from wielding the ax that I couldnâ€™t manage the manual typewriter for several days.
We were deeply grateful that our family members survived without injury, especially as my father had nearly perished in the infamous â€œBlizzard of â€˜67,â€ when the Suburban Transit bus he was driving stalled far west on 95th St.; my Dad, always in poor health due to severe asthma, had to walk for miles through the snow drifts. By some miracle of providence, he wasnâ€™t scheduled to be in the bus garage when the tornado struck on April 21st.
-Ruth Warnas (nee Haaker)
Thomas Kaufmann says
Just looking to get in contact with Dave Hoffman-He has a video of the storm damage and his e-mail address is not current. THANKS
Mike L says
Another April 21 has come and so we remember those this day whose lives were lost in this terrible storm.
May they rest in peace….
*Ages, and places of residence at time of death are listed.
Bernice Andrews , 25 Joliet
Helen Atchley , 81 , Chicago
Bernadette Brady , 8 Oak Lawn
Bernard Brady , 43 , Oak Lawn
Edward J. Burman , 65 Oak Lawn
Patrick Calascibetta , 46 Oak Lawn
Joan Casey , 30 , Oak Lawn
Christine Casey , 18 months , Oak Lawn
Annette Clark , 21 , Worth
Harold F. Cody , 70, Oak Lawn
Patrick Andrew Golden , 39 , Oak Lawn
Edward Griffith , 45 , Oak Lawn
Ernie Gunnarson , 59 , Oak Lawn
Karleen Gunnarson , 57 , Oak Lawn
John Haggan , 51 , Oak Lawn
Charlotte Hanley , 50 , LaGrange
Christine Hinds , 13 , Worth
William Hunoway , 47 , Oak Lawn
William R. Jackson , 51 , Oak Lawn
Walter Johnson , 60 , Hometown
Carole Jucius , 22, Oak Lawn
Albert Kriscunas , 42 , Palos Heights
Edward Lipski , 51 , Oak Lawn
John Timothy Martin , 32 , Chicago
Charles McNeil , 65 , Oak Lawn
Grant Miller , 32 , Chicago
John W. Mobley , 46 , Oak Lawn
David Nork , 14 Chicago
Walter Nykiel , Oak Lawn
Albert J. Semaitis , 42 , Evergreen Park
Marjorie Swanson , 40 , Oak Lawn
William Welser , 36 , Oak Lawn
Catherine M. Zenner , 15, Chicago Ridge
Donna Glover Hardin says
There is another one that should be on the list. Cathy Shoots 16 years old her parents Ken and Mike Shoots owned a bar and store together the tornado destroyed it Ken was under the pool table,Mike was under a car with I think two men were also, the car was still running Mike had tire marks on her back one of the men died, but they could not find Cathy when she was found she had bad head injuries she died at the hospital
Terry D. says
Remembering all those lost and those forever affected by this terrible storm and the other tornadoes of the April 21, 1967 tornadic outbreak.
As I read the comments above, I too remember that day as if it happened yesterday. I was 6 1/2 years old, living in the Hometown Co-ops with my mom & brother. We had gone to the shopping center at 88th & Cicero with our neighbor when the storm suddenly hit. We got into our car and as we headed toward the stop light, my mom slammed on the brakes, and said “there it is” We looked up and saw the tornado along with with trees, wood and even a car flying through the air. As the tornado passed us it was as if it pulled a shade over the sky. Everything turned black. I was in the back seat of the car and immediately jumped into the front seat and crawled on the floor by my mom’s feet. Fortunately we were not hurt. My grandparents lived down the street from Foxes Pizza at the time. My grandmother ran all the way to our apartment to make sure we were ok. There was no electricity or phones for days. A few months later, we moved to Main street in Hometown and much of the devestation was still visible. A duplex down the street had been leveled with the exception of the toilet. The area just west of the Hometown VFW was set up as temporary housing (trailers) for many who lost their homes. We used to go to my grandparents several times a week, and the National Guard would stop anyone coming into Oak Lawn.
Even now, 41 years later, I am terrified of bad storms and even the hint of a tornado. Several years ago my brother and his family were EXTREMELY fortunate to survive the F5 tornado that had ripped through Oklahoma City.
Kathy Johnson says
I was 17 years old and just showed up at work at Allison’s clothing store in Ford City. I had not been there very long when the roof of Frod City started shaking and the roof seemed like it was going to lift off the foundation. After the noise had stopped, we heard on the radio that the tornado had hit the Oak Lawn, Palos Hills area. I was devistated, I never thought that something like that could ever happened in our area. I had never, in my 17 years of living in the Burbank area had seen or heard of a tornado hitting so close to us. When my mother took is in the area of Oak Lawn to do our shopping a few days later most of the debris had been cleaned up. We saw the roller rink where all those children and parents had lost their lives. Then we passed Oak Lawn High School and part of the school was gone and we later found out that it was the swimming pool, and they said that there were no students in that part of the school when the tornado hit. Some of the stores we usually shopped at, were completely gone, the only thing that was left were bricks in the ground where the foundation was. I will never forget that day as long as I live. My sympathy goes out to those who lost a loved one that horrible day.
peggy shanahan says
Does anyone have any photots of the Oak Lawn Roller Rink they could send me??? My family and I lived at 103 & Pulaski and its only due to the grace of God that I wasnt Killed or hurt in this tornado. I was 9 years old at the time and my friends and I were always at the Roller Rink, practicing whenever we could get one of our parents to take us. Four of my friends and I were suppose to be at the Roller Rink on that devastating day, but our ride fell through and we couldnt go. However, we heard of all the damages to many building and schools in the area. My next door teenage neighbor was working at the grocery store next to Panos Bowling lanes on 95th and Cicero, thank goodness he wasnt hurt, however, when they closed the store, he came out to find his car on top of the roof of the Robert Hall(?) Store. My Dad left work at the Clark Equipment Plant across from Ford City and barely made it home safely as the toronado roared down 95th street, the way he alway took to get home. My cousin and his friends rode there bikes to the roller rink and he came home with horror stories of the dead that I cant get out of my mind, even though its been 40 years. I emphasize with all of those who lost their lives on this hellish day-and my condolences go out to the families of the victims. Stay strong! Peggy Shanahan
Ron Corbett says
I was 10 years old the day that tornado hit. I was helping my friend Steve Boyle deliver papers on 95th street between the railroad tracks and 52nd st. We saw it moving towards us and the thing I remember was the ice cream cartons flying around and all the debries in the air. The sky was a weird color of green. We started to knock on windows of shops as we ran west down 95th street warning people there was a tornado coming. I remember the startled looks of people and the total disbelief on their faces.When it got to bad to run anymore we took cover behind a wall next to a door at a dress shop. The wind was howling and all the doors were crashing open and closed.A lady who was working there saw us and came out and grabbed us and took us under the register counter. Just then, the windows from the Barends(spelling?) Hardware store blew out and came crashing into the exact spot we had just been standing. We came so close to being cut to pieces. After it went by we took off running home. I lived at 9610 West Shore Drive and Steve lived about 5 houses down on the Oak Lawn Lake.As we left the shop, the hail started to fall. We went about 2-3 doors down, and the craziest thing I remember was seeing the windows to the jewelery shop all blown out, and all the jewelery on the sidewalk. We were too scared to even think about stopping to pick anything up.We got to about Cook Ave. and 95th by the old newspaper place and a guy in a car offered us a ride home. We took it. Our house which was about a block or so from St. Gerolds was fine. It was the first Mayor of Oak Lawns house (Mayor Montgomery), and it had huge walls.My brother was at his friends (Johnny Poohr)house at the corner of 95th and Central ave. They were on the second floor of the then called Egan insurance agency building..(in the same lot as the Oak Lawn Bank. They watched it hit and then lighting struck the Funeral home at the NE corner of 95th and central ave.My friend Timmy Bruggemans brother came down fron thier bedroom after the storm and said there was a rock in the room that destroyed all their models… It was from St Gerolds I remember seeing the straw stuck in the concrete by St. Gerolds and wood driven into trees.That night we had a lady show up at our house.She was totally disoriented and in shock. I remember her telling parents that she was at the light at 95th and SW Highway and the car next to her was sucked up in the storm.We had National Guard soldiers standing at the foot bridge over Stoney creek by the old ice skaters “Hot House” by the park for days after the storm. I had friends whose Dads were fireman at the OLFD (Ron Hermann and Ron Bruggeman) and we were told alot of stories about the people who didnt make it.I’ve lived through Hurricanes Andrew, Charley, Wilma, and Katrina, and I can tell you this was by far worst than any ‘Cane I’ve seen. It was a day that will live with me forever.
Ron Corbett says
I should have read the other stories first, as there was alot more that came back after reading everyones experiences.I had forgotten about the Starlight and OLCHS… i had friends siblings who were at the school when it hit,the water from the school was sucked out and it flooded the halls. The overpass for pedestrians(which my Dads steel company built) was jammed up with cars.The Red Barn had its whole front torn off… and who could forget the bus garage? The skating rink…..I still feel for those poor people.Something else I remembered seeing, but have never heard anything about, is that the tornado had 2 smaller funnel clouds on either side of the main tornado.Does anyone remember that? Also, the Funeral Home on 95th and Central caught on fire after it was hit by lightning and burned up.I also remember that they ordered a shoot first and ask questions order to the National Guard who were all over after it hit.I remember going to Gasteyer School in 4th grade on the next monday and was told to draw a picture of the tornado…. must have been to release anxiety. The 2 days after the tornado hit, I workked with 2 friends cutting trees that were blown over for some older lady who couldnt do it. It’s still hard to believe it’s been 41 years
Steve Merriam says
Hey Ron Corbett. I came upon your comments on the Oak Lawn tornado pretty much by accident. It was slow at work and I was sitting at my desk and thought about Steve Boyle ( who I hardly knew) and googled his name and the site with your memories came up.
My memories of this are more mundane. We were at homeand I was in the basement watching the tube when: the Rain started, the sky turned green and the house started shaking. My Mom came downstairs but I had to go upstairs and catch our cat, Charlie.
The storm was over quickly and as we were in one of the few parts of town that still had power we were clueless about the storm’s severity until the next day when I went with Steve Galloway to look at the rubble where the shopping center at the intersection of 95th and Southwest highway.
Just replying on your comment that “the funeral home on 95th & Central burned up”…that is not true. My uncle and aunt owned that funeral home, and lived above it with my cousins. Luckily, no one was injured there, and the building remained intact. My uncle went out that night to help other rescuers, and I believe several funerals for the victims were held at that funeral home.
william denton says
I WAS WORKING AT THE COMMUNITY DISCOUNT CENTER AT 95/RIDGELAND GARDEN CENTER> I WAS 12 AT THAT TIME I WATCHED IT COMMING THRU THE STARLITE DRIVE IDID NOT SEE A GREEN SKY BUT I DID SEE A SMALLER FUNNEL ROTATING AROUND THE LARGER ONE. I THINK THIS IS WHY THE PATH SEEMS TO WIDEN AT S,W,HWY. IF THEY WERE SIDE BY SIDE IT WOULD BE ABOUT A BLOCK IN WIDTH. AS WEATHER IS MY HOBBY I DID A LOT OF RESEARCH ON THE STORM. IT ACTUALLY FIRST TOUCHED DOWN AT 109 ST AND LA GRANGE RD. TREES WERE TWISTED OUT OF THE GROUND THERE.
Thomas Wyatt says
I was at 83rd and harlem 5:30 pm April 21 / 67 saw the funnel cross Harlem , the part of funnel that contacted
the ground was very small at that location, seemed like it was this way until 95th and SW Highway, I lived at 97 th pl and New England the funnel went by this location with very little damage.
The Whites says
We lived at 95th and New England(69th ave).
I was in 3rd grade when I and my sisters and brothers(ages 7 to 16) actually saw the tornado just feet from our house..IT WAS HUGE!!HUMUNGUS….Biggest I have ever seen…….
Our parents went to do some banking and we we supposed to being doing our chores while they were gone..riiight….4 of us were playing moms piano,(heart and soul I think)… in front of the Big Picture Window, that faced east..OOOHH!!!AND THERE IT WAS!!!LIKE IT WAS
looking at us UP CLOSE!!almost like it was sizing us up for the KILL!!!!It was like a space ship suddenly appeared in our front yard!!!!!..A HUGE HUGE BLACK SWHIRLING MASS OF DIRT AND ROOFING AND METAL!!!! All at once we all SCREAMED!! TORNADO!!!LOOKING AT IT IN THE FACE!!! and ran to the hallway. No sitting on the floor and tuck your head applied here..Our 2 big brothers, in one second, covered us 4 litle girls….I remember being so squished..and the sound..and the pressure..and..The SKY WAS FROM ANOTHER PLANET!!! it’s gone..getting up and wondering where are our parents and where is Big brother (he worked at Hillmans Groc.,I think on 95th and Cicero)…It seemed like forever
before Mom and Dad got home..(I think we may have even quickly finished our chores)..
When our parents got home we learned that they were coming back(going west on 95th st)from Oak Lawn Bank and saw the TORNADO!!and ducked into a frantic pub, where they were all headed to the basement..holding hands on they way down…when they came UP…the pub was gone… When they tried to get back to our home the police would not let them go past…Dad pleaded…(I have 7 children at home)…Then HE BLEW THE ROAD BLOCK!!!…..
Minutes after they returned OUR Big brother(he was only 16)..just frantic and crying,,,after walking miles down 95th st(in all the destruction) to get home was waiting at the same road block, he saw someone blow it so he ran fast thru it to get home..I’ll never forget seeing his face coming around that 95th st. corner..and him seeing our house still standing…
We learned later that the TORNADO!!!actually skipped, jumped, RIGHT OVER OUR HOUSE!!! and stopped, and continued it’s destruction just feet away…
Years after..I was the tornado watch person(because I was the fastest) in the family.I would watch out the west window and yell way across the house..TORNADO!!!!!IT”S COMING RIGHT THIS WAY!!!!!…Then run fast to the hallway…..I would see many of them skipping across 294 and 95th..THE SOUND AND THE ANTICIPATION and the FINAL HIT is just unforgetable….Our property took several hits years later. WE ARE ALL STILL ALIVE!!!!
Jim Carroll says
I was a patrolman on duty in Oak Lawn at the time the tornado struck. In fact, my patrol zone included 95th & Southwest hwy. It was about lunch time and I decided to go home to eat. As I neared my home near 99th & Crawford, I requested permission to check out of service to eat. HQ advised there were high winds reported in my patrol zone and that I should return to check for injury or damage. I immediately returned and was confronted by the most unbelieveable sights I had ever witnessed! The rest of that day and several more were consumed by rescue, transportation,looter patrol and fatigue. It was a catastrophe of unimaginable magnitude and if one was there, one will never forget.
I was 3 and my sister was 4, we were in our car with our parents, eating at the McDonalds on Cicero. We heard very strong winds and saw the tornedo coming. Our parents told us to get down on the floor in the back seat, they then put themselves on top of us. Our windows blew in and the car was shaking. When it was over, the roller rink was hit. If the tornedo would have gone the other way, we would not be here. My heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones.
Mike Jasiewicz says
I was almost 11 and living in Oak Lawn at the time of the tornado.
My family was driving north on Pulaski Rd. to spend the night with my grandparents.
We were stopped at the traffic signal as we approached the intersections of Pulaski, 87th St, Southwest Highway and the railroad tracks. That was always a slow intersection to get through. The sky was a sickly green color with lightning throughout it. Our car was shaking. My Dad said to hold on because we were going to run through the intersection. He said that there was a tornado coming. I looked to the west and there it was, just moments from where we were stopped. My dad got us to safety, however his car received some major hail damage. I was very excited to see the tornado until we came home the next day.
My aunt took us home as my dad had to go to work. The National Guard was out in full force. They weren’t going to let us in to Oak Lawn because my aunt’s car had a Chicago registration sticker in the windo. In her purse, my mom found proof that we were from Oak Lawn. We had just recently moved there so her drivers license was still listed as Chicago, but she had a recent utility bill. The guards let us in. Our house received minor shingle damage. But my excitement about seeing the tornado all but disappeared when I saw what it did to Oak Lawn.
I will never be the same. I will always remember those who were affected in more extreme ways then I was.
Susan Barwan says
I remember this tornado like it was yesterday…I was only 3 years old at the time, but it was me who was looking out the front window and asked mommy what the big black thing was. She ignored the comment of a 3 year old until the sirens went off, came running to the window and promptly ordered myself and my baby brother Paul downstairs, while she ran to get a blanket. We wouldn’t go down because it was dark and we were afraid of the dark, and mom (6 months pregnant with my next brother Gregg) picked us both up under her arms and hurried us down into the SW corner of the basement, where she quickly pulled the blanket over our heads. I remember the horrifying sound…so loud and yes, like a train, and big bangs as things hit the house.
We were lucky…it missed us, but it got the High School on the corner and took out one side if I remember correctly. My father was at work at the time as a copy machine serviceman, and was at the Jewel that got grazed. He told me once that he dove under a desk just as the front windows blew in.
I believe this experience is responsible for my infatuation with tornados to this day…when there is a storm, i don’t go inside…I stand outside and watch, much to the chagrin of my roomate hehe To this day I have seen 4 tornados up close, including the Plainfield tornado, and I just can’t get enough. Thanks for reading my story 🙂
Linda Kramp says
I was 11 years old on that fateful day. My dad was building our garage at 9624 Natoma. We were in the neighborhood behind the Starlite drive-in. The weather was looking pretty bad and I heard my dad and his lifelong friend talking about how ‘this is it’ while looking at the sky. I decided to go out back and secure the garbage can lids. At that time my dad screamed for me! I never ran so fast in my life back up to the front of the garage! He sounded so scared! He pushed me to the floor of the garage and as we looked out we saw the Starlite to down. My dad said to me ‘that is a tornado. Don’t ever forget what it looks like’. I’ve heeded his words and have been scared to death of bad weather ever since. Once it was over, the rain came down in buckets, and my mom pulled into the driveway, coming home from work. We had to pull all the debris out of the driveway before she could get all the way in. When she got out of the car she collapsed into my dad’s arms. She had driven down 95th street when she saw the tornado and pulled off the road in front of Simmons School. She watched it dance over the A&P that was across the street and she just knew our house was gone. Once we were in the house (luckily we had just superficial damage) my dad took off down the street. He was gone all night pulling people out of their homes. The entire block had been destroyed. He had brought back refugees to stay with us. My dad’s name, by the way was Jay Lambert. He was a real hero during that time. He worked so hard helping that night that he wore his socks away! I knew 3 of the people that perished. What a scary time. Every time after that when warnings would come up my mom and I would dive for cover. To this day I pace the floor waiting for the storms to end. I live in Missouri now and we catch whatever is coming out of Kansas and Oklahoma, but nothing has been as bad as the tornado that destroyed my neighborhood and caused so much death and destruction. I’m glad I found this site and am finally able to tell my story to people that were there and who understand. God bless David Nork, Joan Casey and Christine Casey, and the families they left behind.
Anthony Vereecke says
Your story is fascinating in the sense i grew up at 9633 s. Normandy. My yard was kitty corner from your yard. I remember the house is yellow and brown. Only this was in the 90’s and i wanna say an older man lived there. Maybe your father Jay ? If you remember the Ross’s on Normandy we lived in the white Cape Cod next door. I am only thirty but have had a fascination with the tornado since a young age. My family went through it only back then they lived on 53rd ave and 95th. When i read your story is when i realized how much it effected the dearborn heights neighborhood too. Its almost a forgotten area with the tornado topic. If you remember anything about my home please email me. I love oak lawn stories, especially if you lived so close with the starlight theatre still up. I could not imagine seeing that from my drive way growing up.
it is just a thunderstorm I pckeid up our dog who was in a hip cast (fractured hip from that horrible snow storm we had that year) Once the storm was over, I could not pick-up the dog and bring her back upstairs. My brother was in the barbershop across the street from the bus station when the tornado hit. He drove home down Alexander Pl. going over 60 MPH thinking we were effected. Luckily, our house was fine..He drove me up to the HS and I observed the damage to the A&P grocery store (now Red Lobster), the Barn, the overpass and the pool where I was suppose to be when it collapsed! If I had not DITCHED I would have been a fatality.I spent that night at the Korvette’s on Cicero Ave. helping with a First Aid Station with other emergency personnel. Victims were arriving with embedded glass at 8 PM at night. I quickly learned how many items in a store become first aid supplies! My mom even drove a nurse to Christ Hospital as they were in their disaster plan and he had no way to get there. The rest of the weekend was spent with many of my friends delivering food to those who were in need and working out of the Masonic Hall on 52nd Ave. I had to overcome the anxiety of storms with green tinged skies and tornado sirens so that I would not instill fear of storms in my children~ and teach them to respect nature. (Oh, I did become a nurse ~very involved in Disaster Planning and involved in that since before 9-11)May none of us or our families ever have to have these vivid memories.
Frances Terchanyn Mattre says
I moved to OakLawn 3/27/1967 from Johnstown Pa, to attend school. I also worked for Avis Rent-A-Car on Wabash St, downtown. About 5 PM that day, I was fascinated by how dark it was, expecially south of us. I went outside to experience a very different type of atmosphere. Very oppressive, dark but no rain. Never experiencing a tornado, I thought it was just going to be another typical summer thunderstorm, but it just felt different from back in Pa. I was living with my aunt and uncle in Oak Lawn and did not yet have a car. My uncle worked on the near north and was picking me up at 5PM, as he generally did. Our drive home brought us to 95th and Southwest Hwy about 5:30 each day. On 4/21, my uncle called me about 4PM to let me know that he had to work late and that I should take the L. Because of the storm, my boss told me to hang around til it ended. I got a call about 5:45 from another aunt that lived in Cicero, telling me that there were tornados touching down southeast of the city and that I should come to her place instead. Her husband drove in to the city, picked me up and took me home. We couldn’t contact anyone in OakLawn and couldn’t get near there. We were up all night trying to reach my aunt and uncle. I stayed there the next day, waiting for word of my family. We got a call finally, and everyone was okay. I got back to my aunts later that day. Her house was intact, the neighbors was gone and most in her neighborhood were either leveled or badly damaged. You wonder why that house was spared? I could not believe the photos on the news from the area of 95th and Southwest. The fact that my uncle had to work late possibly saved our lives. We will never know, but it left me shook for many years. The devastation was all around, and seeing it just left me feeling helpless. Because I was a student and worked, I was not able to get involved in the cleanup. I recall that everytime after that, when it would rain, get dark, or have what I called hangy down clouds, I would retreat to my aunts tornado shelter, under her house, where she and her children had spent waiting out the storm, frightened, on 4/21. I have never seen any thing so chilling and to this day, I can see the war like devastion in my mind.
Kathy webb(Neese) says
I was 11 at the time and was suppose to be at the oak lawn roller rink, but mom would not take me because of the storm. I was a good thing because I saw the tornado hit the high school. I had several friends buried at the roller rink since it was demolished.I will never forget that day.
Gene Skala says
I was only 2 years or so when it hit. I remember it was very dark outside and stormy. My father (an Oak Lawn Policman) was home a lunch or dinner break. My mother started panicking and told me, my brother and sisters to go in the bathroom. My father was using the bathroom at the time, but he soon opened up the door. We all climbed in the bathtub and our family stayed in the bathroom. We lived on Merrimac right near Chicago Ridge Mall. Only blocks away from where it hit.
I was 13 and had ridden my bike to Hillman’s Food store at 95th and Cicero to get something for my Mom. As I came out and looked West, the sky was a horrible green/black shade that I never want to see again…then I caught a glimpse of the funnel. I started to drive my bike south, but was urged by a group of people at the furniture store next to Hillmans to join them in the back of the lower floor until it passed…
Beverly Meier says
The recent tornado to hit the Boy Scout camp in Iowa validates the seriousness with which I take weather warnings, and explains to some degree the hyper-vigilent nature under which I constantly operate.
April 21, 1967 was the day before my 10th birthday. My father and older sister had just returned from the Jewel near Southwest Highway and 95th with the birthday cake for my party, which was to be held the following day. As we huddled under the kitchen table in our house (which was built on a slab – no basement) at 9124 S. Monitor, my father held the phone out the back door so his co-worker could hear what a tornado sounded like. We couldn’t hear anything because my mother was screaming for him to get under the table. I remember wondering if the table could hold up the house if it fell on us.
Afterwards, we all piled into the car and took a backroads kind of route to Foamin’ 60s on Pulaski for dinner, which was our Friday night routine. Inside, patrons and employees recounted seeing couches flying through the air. We had no idea what they were talking about as all we had seen on the drive over was a few downed branches. We returned home and walked up to Southwest Highway. There were school busses on front porches. A pot on a stove but the house around it gone. The high school was demolished. A car was rammed against the supports of the pedestrian overpass from the high school. My father looked inside the car and I heard him tell my mother that the driver was pinned to the seat with a board through his chest. The Fisher Motel was flattened. My 13 year-old sister, who was a friend of Debbie Fisher, who lived kitty- corner behind us, started crying. We didn’t know if she were there working with her parents, as she often did, or not. The remainder of my 4th grade year at St. Gerald’s was held in the basement of the school, and 5th grade classes were held at St. Nick’s the Greek where the desks were oversized for the children in our class and we had to bring a shoebox to rest our feet on if they didn’t touch the floor. Apparently, dangling feet could affect our posture, so they said.
I’ve chaperoned camping overnights with the Girl Scouts and if there is rain in the forecast, I ask the leader straight out: “What is our plan in the event of a tornado?” My children know exactly what to do if there is severe weather and I am not home. If we go to a movie and there are storms predicted, I always ask someone at home to call my cell if the sirens are activated. I don’t trust the teenaged employees at the theatre to take a threat seriously. I guess when you witness it for yourself, you tend to believe it CAN happen to you.
Hello to Susie Culp who posted here as well. She lived across the street from me on Monitor.
One thing I discovered only as an adult: a 2nd grader at our school was killed in the tornado, along with her father. Was this fact not shared schoolwide? Were we sheltered from this news to protect us? I think of the school (Ss. Peter and Paul, Naperville) where my children attend and know that if something like this were to happen here, the Ss. Peter and Paul family would be wrapping our arms around one another and mourning this tragedy together. Am I remembering this incorrectly? Do any St. Gerald alums recall?
Debbie Rios says
Beverly I have been trying to find you for so many years!! please write me by replying to this letter!! Remember our childhood, we were great friends together!!
Beverly Meier says
Debbie! Of course! Remember: Mr. Bubble Pool Parties? What could be more fun? Forget: The time I threw a dead mouse inside your house! Oh I was a little brat, wasn’t I? How did you restrain yourself from beating me up? !!!
Email me: email@example.com
I was 14 at the time. We lived a just a few blocks north of Southwest Hwy. We were getting ready to go to St Gerald’s for a confirmation. If it came just 10 minutes later, we would of been at the church…right in the path. The thing I remember the most is picking up the phone and just hearing people crying and begging for help. I hope I never see anything like it again.
I was 14 and lived in the neighboring town of Palos Heights. I remember looking out the window to the north and the sky had turned to “army green”. The next morning my dad and I went to Oak Lawn and I will never forget the devastation we saw. The one thing that sticks out in my mind is a piece of hay or straw driven into the side of a tree. It was like it was a nail and someone had hammerred it in.
I was 9 years old in 1967. We lived on south 51st Avenue across from a park.I remember the wind picking up and the sky looking yellowish. My dad was home and made all of us go down to the basement. He was very serious and I could tell that there was something definitely bad happening. He had the radio on and kept walking up the basement stairs to look outside. Once, I followed him up the stairs and looked at the sky. It was yellowish black. The wind was very strong and it was very loud. My dad told me to go back downstairs and I insisted that he come down as well. The tornado touched down several blocks away from our house and we were lucky enough not to suffer any damage that I can recall. After the storm, probably the next day, we drove around looking at the damage. I remember seeing the collapsed walls of the Oak Lawn HS swimming pool and buses in the pool, trees uprooted, and a small restaurant where the walls were totally gone, but the barstools and counter were still intact. It was very weird. We moved to Lincolshire the next year. I remember taking the front page of the newspaper published the day after the tornado into my new school and telling my classmates about the storm. No one seemed very impressed (except the teacher)as they probably had never experienced anything like it before.
Donna Otway-Krambeck says
I too, like Dirk Mooth and Debbie Smith, was in the roller rink that fateful day. I had gone there to sell my skates as my car was in the shop and I had no money to get it out! As the others have mentioned, we knew of the warnings but always thought “it wouldn’t happen to us”. I remember sitting in the snack bar area when Chrissy Hinds came up to me to say hello. She had on a cute white ruffled blouse-always such a sweet and beautiful young lady. That would be the last time I’d ever see her alive again. I looked out the window that faced Cicero and noticed what I thought were many black birds flying and mentioned to the person there that it seemed unusual. We got up to get a closer look and saw that huge funnel cloud on the ground coming through the Clark gas station across from the rink! We yelled “tornado” and started to run. I remember someone yelling to get in the coat room, which was just a fragile room of paneling, nothing much for protection. I remember huddling with, I think, Chrissy and the Hanley daughter(whose name I cannot remember). We were all hugging each other very tightly when the tornado hit the rink and we went flying apart. I felt myself going through the air and started praying out loud. I remember thinking that I’d never see my parents and my brother again and that the next person I’d see would be Jesus at the gates of Heaven. I felt very relaxed and prepared to die. Then it was over. I was buried under debri and it started to rain. I’ll never forget the smell of wet wood. I could hear the kids crying and moaning. I thought my back was broke, but didn’t want to just lie there. I had to get help. I struggled to get out and had to leave my purse there, which I never found. Then I walked out onto the floor, or what was left of it. It seemed to have large buckled bumps in it. I had one moccasin on and slipped on the floor. I kicked the one shoe off and noticed that I had lost my periferal vision. I made my way out to Cicero avenue and asked someone for a ride home. The driver of the car turned out to be employed by a company that my father sold his animals to! Later he told my dad he picked up a girl coming out of the rink with blood all over her. He didn’t know that I was Don’s daughter. When I got home, I walked into the house where my mom was sitting in the kitchen unbeknown of the tornado. I walked passed her as she asked me if I was in a car accident. I told her that Chrissy was dead which of course I didn’t know at the time. Somehow, I must have felt that she was gone.
I have finally gotten over my terrible fear of storms. I respect them and take cover when need be, but I don’t freak out anymore over them. I DID buy a house with a basement though!!! I have taught my son to respect tornadoes and do keep an eye out when it gets threatening. Whenever we go camping, I make sure I check first for the nearest gulley, etc. to take cover in, just in case! I never did get to sell my skates as they were lost for 3 weeks, but I did get them back and in fact, I still have them–down in the basement!!!
Dirk Mooth–please email me if you read this, would love to speak to you again!
carolyn cartalino says
Christine Hinds was my cousin.We went to school together at Worth school.On April 21,1967 Christine asked me to go skating with her.So when I got home I asked my mom and she said no.I asked her for a quarter for the bus ride and she said no. She said I dont have a quarter now go away and leave me alone. So instead I babysat for a neighbor. I was watching TV and the news came on. They said Oak Lawn skating rink was hit. I got on my knees and starting crying.OH MY GOD CHRISTINE, Is she ok or what.Then we found out she was gone. My uncle was in panic tring to find her. At the funeral my aunt showed me the side of her face, it was hit by a beam. She was beauitful and very smart.She also was very athletic,and liked sports.I miss her and think about her all the time.GOD BLESS EVERYONE WHO my prayers go out to all.
Darlene (Daniels) Gallagher says
I graduated from OLCHS in 1968. After reading previous encounters, my heart goes out to those who can still so vividly recall ther perils of the day. I too have vivid memories for over 40 years.
I was to make-up a swimming class that afternoon but I ditched to go to an OLCHS baseball game out at Sandburg HS. The sun was shinning..great day for a game…so we thought. Suddenly, it was announced the game was cancelled due to a storm warning. My mother, who drove us to the game, loaded the car and started to drive us home. As we were dropping off Elaine F. (who was in a full leg cast and on crutches) at her house on Raymond Ave, the sky was getting darker and darker. As we drove down Southwest Highway to take Mary Ellen H. home the winds kicked up….I remember saying to my mother..If you can’t keep the car steady, then I will drive..(typical teenager response!) After we dropped off Mary Ellen, we went home and Terry P. lived next door to me. We all rushed into the house….I looked out the back window just as the funnel was hitting the bus terminal and remember seeing the buses flying in the air like matchbox toys! I yelled to go downstairs (we had a basement) and pulling my mother off of the couch…she said…it is just a thunderstorm…I picked up our dog who was in a hip cast (fractured hip from that horrible snow storm we had that year)…… Once the storm was over, I could not pick-up the dog and bring her back upstairs. My brother was in the barbershop across the street from the bus station when the tornado hit. He drove home down Alexander Pl. going over 60 MPH thinking we were effected. Luckily, our house was fine..He drove me up to the HS and I observed the damage to the A&P grocery store (now Red Lobster), the Barn, the overpass and the pool where I was suppose to be when it collapsed! If I had not DITCHED… I would have been a fatality.
I spent that night at the Korvette’s on Cicero Ave. helping with a First Aid Station with other emergency personnel. Victims were arriving with embedded glass at 8 PM at night. I quickly learned how many items in a store become first aid supplies! My mom even drove a nurse to Christ Hospital as they were in their disaster plan and he had no way to get there. The rest of the weekend was spent with many of my friends delivering food to those who were in need and working out of the Masonic Hall on 52nd Ave. I had to overcome the anxiety of storms with green tinged skies and tornado sirens so that I would not instill fear of storms in my children~ and teach them to respect nature. (Oh, I did become a nurse ~very involved in Disaster Planning and involved in that since before 9-11)
May none of us or our families ever have to have these vivid memories.
Fred Martinek says
I was 6 years old in April-67, we lived on 84th and Pulaski in Chicago right off the Southwest Hwy. I was home with my two sisters, while my mom was working at the Jewel down the street. I remember my grandma calling our house to see if we heard about the tornado warning for Cook County! My sister told her yes, a neighbor next door said to stay away from the windows after you open them (in 1967 that was supposed to equal the pressure between the house and the tornado and save it from exploding — do not do this anymore it is a waste of time).
As soon as my sister hung the phone up my mother came home from the Jewel and yelled at us to go in the basement. I remember coming out of my bedroom and looking out of our kitchen window which faced south looking at the Southwest Hwy and all I could see was the darkest black-green clouds I ever saw. The clouds were so low it almost looked like there was a fire at the gas station across Southwest Hwy ( which later became Marathon Pools). I later learned that the tornado was in St. Marys cemetery at this point and we were looking at the south edge of the wall cloud. After the storm cleared all the neighbors came out and to see if everything was all right – and it was. No damage on our block, but we started hearing sirens and emergency equipment. Heading down the Southwest Hwy we listened to the radio ( somehow our lights did not go out) and the reports of damage in Oak Lawn and Hometown started to come in, but we did not realize how bad this was until the following day, when the shoots from the helicopters showed the damage.
I can still remember watching a WGN ch-9 special report on Saturday, April 22, 1967 and Carl Grayson (news reporter) was crying when they showed film of firefighters carrying a little girl out of the roller-rink with her skates still on.
Nancy Ahlgrim-Mitchum says
Do you have a sister named Linda who graduated from Bogan in 1972? You sound like you lived very closed to our family in 1967. We were at 82nd & Lawndale. So many memories are flooding back as I read this. Things I have blocked until reading these stories. Alot is making sense now and why I reacted so traumatically after Hurricane Hugo here in Charleston in 1989. Thank you for sharing!
Although I was not even born at the time this terrible tragedy had occured, I currently live in a house right off SouthWest Highway on Sproat Ave. Prior to buying our home the previous owner could not, not share her story about that dreadful day. She told me that her home was the only one standing as it was made of brick. However, her farmhouse was blown away…and many she knew where hurt and/or killed that day. She made me feel committed to learning more about what happened and now I know. Does anyone remember this block?
Mike Hosek says
I was 13 1/2 years old as I saw this monster heading toward the Hometown area.The sky had a purple/green hue and it looked ugly! It became so still and as our family huddled in our homes hallway. All of a sudden you could feel the pressure change as the cat and dog started to act very unusual. I then heard that unusual sound that most describe as a freight train! You’ll never forget that sound! The cat was clawed to the screen, the dog running in circles and then came the massive wind, hail, and the rain so heavy you could not see anything out the living room window as the house was now being hammered with debris and it felt as if it was going to pull off its foundation. We and our home had survived but it was the aftermath of going outside and seeing what only one could desribe as truly a “war zone”. I toured the area and was in total shock in what I saw but the worst was to come as I headed toward the trailer court and the roller rink area. I had arrived there a good thirty minutes before any police or rescue equipment had arrived. Not a pretty site and not something I want to describe. I now reside in Missouri and have seen the recent devastation from horrible tornadoes that had hit pretty close to me this year and they were bad too, but to this day, I truly feel that the numbers of the casualties is most likely accurate in the Oaklawn tornado but I really question the number of injuries and lost homes as being accurate. Of course in 1967, there were no camcorders and cell pic phones back then so therefore there is not enough to show how devastating this tornado really was. Compared to many previous tornadoes located in Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and many more, I truly believe this may have been one of the worst in history actually “living it” and seeing areas and film footage of others. To many that I knew that lost their lives and were injured during this horrible event, the families and friends are all (to this day) in my thoughts and prayers.
I wasn’t born yet when that tornado struck, but my mom was 7, and my grandma’s house is not even a block away from the Oak Lawn library, which I now see almost every day. I’ve heard so many stories of that tornado and it’s always frightened me. It’s hard to believe that something made from nature can cause such horrible damage.
ernie brand says
I played on the olchs sophomore baseball team and that day our game was canceled. I went home,watched the end of the cubs game,and told my mom I was going to prince castle at 95th and 54th ave.as I was drinking my milk shake,the sky got funky,and everyone in the place wemt outside and looked down 95th towards the high school.The manager of prince castle told everyone to follow him into the basement.We went down there and when we figured it had passed,went back upstairs.Unaware of what had happened,the manager was upset because the power was out and his ice cream was melting.I then walked down 95th to my grandpa’s tailor shop.Nobody really knew what had actually happened.I tried to call home,but of course the phones were out.I figured I better walk home and see if everything was ok.As I walked down 54th ave.,there were several trees toppled like bowling pins.When i got near my house,my mom came running out crying.Fortunately everybody was ok,but my dad was in the city,attending a meeting.When it ended about 7pm,he became aware of the situation.By that time the village was surrounded by police and national guard.They wouldn’t let him in.of course he blew through the second or third roadblock he came to.That night my dad,my grandpa, and me walked around town and saw the unbelievable damage.If somebody has movies of that day i’d love to see them.I tried to e-mail the gentleman above but its not going through.thanks.My e-mail is erniebrand @aol.com.my cell is 708-370-6200.thanks
I was 9. Mom, Dad, my younger sisters and I stopped to eat at Sherwood Forest restaurant. A few people started to look out the window and discuss if that was a tornado. My dad asked the waitress for a basement. The last thing I saw out the window before obeying dad’s order to run with him was two teens on the pedestrian bridge that appeared to be looking down at the heavy traffic rather than the direction of the tornado. The rest of the customers followed our family (except for a few that didn’t bother to come). I was on the last step down when the hanging light bulb went out. People poured into the cellar while debris packed us in airtight. It sounded EXACTLY like a locomotive and I did not realize the building was being totaled to the ground as I could not hear the demolition above the roar. It became silent just as suddenly and the air pressure did something that made our skin feel like “pins and needles”. Then I heard a short crashing and it was gone. We were left underground at the corner of 95th and Southwest Highway in the pitch dark and unable to hear any outside noise at all, not even the sirens. I heard my father’s voice reciting the 23rd Psalm. Then people started to talk about what to do. A metal door that lies flat on the ground for truck deliveries mysteriously flew open and a man with light around him lifted my father out and a stock boy. The man vanished and dad and the teen lifted all the injured people out until emergency workers arrived and took over. Dad, covered in others’ blood, just started walking down the street with his family. I felt the heavy rain and watched electric lines dancing around us. A family stopped their car and invited us in and drove us home. Our car was later found in a treetop a block away.
Betty Davis says
I was 8 years old at the time and I will mever forget the tornado. I lived in the Hometown apartments. I remember as I was walking home from school that day I noticed the temperature had dropped from earlier in the day. I got home and my brother was laying on the couch sick. He had not gone to work or school that day which is a good thing because Oak Lawn High School was about to be hit as well as the roller rink right across from McDonalds where he worked. I remember my mom was cooking dinner when my brother said that something was on fire across the street. When we looked out the window we realized it wasn’t smoke it was a tornado coming right at us. I remember the sky was the strangest shade of green and right before we saw the tornado the wind stopped completely. It didn’t hit the apartments, it jumped right over us and took out several houses on the next couple of blocks. I will never forget the devastation that day or the terrible roaring sound. I’m 50 years old now and I still get terrified when there is a bad thunderstorm.
Jennifer Pesquera says
it was so sad that everybody was hurt and killed from the twister.
Susan Culp says
I was 6 years old. I lived a block from the high school. I remember my parents telling my four brothers and I to get into the hallway as they hid under the kitchen table. The noise of the tornado hurt my ears and scared me. After it hit and was done, my father wanted to drive and look at everything. The first place he drove by was the high school. Unbelievable damage and traffic driving by it. We drove down Southwest highway and seeing the two houses with a roof flipped over on the neighbors house was scarey for a 6 year old or anyone for that matter. Every time I hear its tornado watches or warnings, I panic. To this day, after seeing the devestation that hit Oak Lawn, I tell everyone it isn’t something to mess with. Hear warnings and watches, take caution and understand this isn’t something you want to play with at all. Don’t think, just take caution.
Nancy (Meyer) Rusin says
We were part of the “99th Street Gang” near 99th and Pulaski, land of millions of kids. . .or so it seemed! The condos weren’t there and you could see all the way to 95th street! My mom had gone to the grocery store and I was babysitting. The sky turned GREEN and looked like something I’ve never seen before in my 14 years! A couple of my brothers were upstairs and I called them to check it out. . .they did and went back up. . . moments later I called out and later found out that they picked up on the terror in my voice. . . they looked and we all ran to climb under the stair case. . the perfect place to ride out a storm when you lived in the “blue tops”. . . When it was over I call PJ Hoff the weatherman to tell him that a tornado had touched down. . .the reply was that ther wasn’t one because their instruments did’t pick up on it. . . little did they know at tht time !!!!
My parents were part of the recovery and we were all put to work helping out. . .
I lived on 99th street at the time of the tornado….. about 10 houses from Brother Rice on the Oak Lawn side. I remember walking home from School ( 8th grade at Queen of Martyrs) and the sky was green….completely green. AS I approached my block , there was my mom standing in front of my house waving to me to hurry up…and the closer I got the better I could hear her screaming, hurry up , hurry up. She was scared to death that I was not going to make it home……..and so was I. Those hours and days during the tornado and afterwards are inbedding in my mind. The noises of people screaming and the firetrucks going by and police cars and then the National Guard was brought in to stand on the corners ….99th and Pulaski and all around Oak Lawn area. A moment in time that I do not think anyone could forget….and this was right after the big Snow store in 67 too……….a few months of many memories of growing up in Oak Lawn. AS time went on , we heard of people that were hurt or killed during the tornado….. it was so horrible to hear it all. Our little town was torn apart…so sad. Our block was very close and I remember wondering if everyone got home on to 99th street safe that day.
While I was not even alive at the time this tornado occurred, I have heard stories of it my whole life. My aunt Joan and cousin Christy are 2 of the 33 casualties of this disaster. The story as it has been told to me was that Joan and her husband Fred were shopping with their 2 children, Freddy and Christy. Joan and Christy went down one aisle while Fred and Freddy went down another. They had no idea what the weather was like outside. When the tornado hit the building, it collapsed. Fred and Freddy were in the right place at the right time but the same can not be said for Joan and Christy. I believe I was told that it took rescue crews 2 or 3 days to find the bodies. Christy was just 18 months old.
I leave this comment in memory of Joan & Christine Casey.
Bill S says
Hi, Stephanie. Thank you for your comment. It sheds a little light on what marked the final earthly moments of two very noteworthy casualties of this devastating event. I was about the same age as Christine in April 1967, and ever since I have known of the OLT, I have harbored a particular interest in the story of Joan and Christine Casey. I have included my email address in this reply, so if you don’t mind, please let me know if it would be okay for me to ask you a few more questions about your aunt and your cousin. Thanks very much.
Jeffrey Werner says
Bill, I was Freddie’s best friend in 2nd grade at Dearborn Heights Elementary. Freddie moved away shortly after his mother and sister where killed. If you have any information about him, I would be most appreciative. God Bless – Jeff Werner RunWithJesus@comcast.net
Jeffrey Werner says
Stephanie, I just came back from a historical review of the 1967 Oak Lawn Tornado. I was 8 years old and if I make the connection correctly, I was your cousin Freddie’s best friend in Dearborn Height Elementary. I would love to know how he has been. My memory of him was the best baseball player in our grade (I was second -my opinion!) I remember saying goodbye shortly after the 2nd grade but have always wondered what ever happened to him. Any responds would be most welcomed! God Bless. Jeffrey Werner RunWithJesus@comcast.net
Rick Baske says
Fred Martinek, this is Rick B. Do you remember me? Look me up sometime. I would like to talk to you.
I was 8, attending St. Germaines. I lived on the corner of 96th & Keeler. We were spared but my dad had a paint store on archer & austin. He haules a$$ to get home. I remember him walking in the house and he just broke down crying cuz he was so relieved that we were ok….or he may have been riding it out in a bar somewhere. Either way, its not a good thing to ever see your dad cry.
Martin Laughlin says
I remember that day. I was only 5. My Mother, Sister and I where at the Burger King on 87Th and Cicero. That’s when Burger King was a treat! My Mother as well as everyone else had the weather on there minds that afternoon. Suddenly my Mom just happened to turn around and saw the tornado coming over the shopping center just to the south. “Korvettes?” She then turned back and yelled “TORNADO!” The Mgr then took everyone that was in the restaurant into the huge walk in fridge. It was just about that time when it hit the Roller Rink. Scary stuff!
When we got home “78th nd Karlov” we got more information as to where and what happened. We found out that the path continued eastward. Went through the cemetery and hit my Fathers tire store on 88Th place and Kedzie. He and my big brother where there. They where OK thank God!
I had nightmares for years after. Even now from time to time. I too have had a fascination for the weather. Guess I always will.
One last thing. Last year on the 40Th anniversary of that day. WGN Tom Skilling had a special on about it. He showed the front of either Time magazine or Life magazine. On it as a picture of the tornado. It was taken from the same vantage point I had. 87Th and Cicero. Sure would love to have a copy of it if anyone has it. It gave me goose bumps! He said that the photo was the only one on record of THAT tornado. That in itself is pretty amazing.
Here is the link to photo from 87th and Cicero:
Martin Laughlin says
That’s the one! Thank you very much!
There is another photo of the twister looking south from 87th and Harlem here:
However, the Korvette’s/Dominick’s photo makes it look like it is coming right at you.
At one point about ten years ago WGN showed some home movie footage somebody took out of a west window of Christ Hospital of the twister as well, but I have never seen that again. The thing I remember about the film footage is you can clearly see the round hotel building in the foreground.
Martin Laughlin says
There was someone that posted earlier in this thread who said he had some footage of it. He even left his email for anyone who wanted a VHS copy of it. I thought about requesting one and converting it but I have no way of converting it over. FYI. Thanks again for the pics. Although I have seen that second one out there somewhere, I always thought it looked like the toll at 95th and 294. Of course the two locations are very close. I personally can’t picture 87th and Harlem in my mind. I will scan the thread and try and find that post.
Martin Laughlin says
I did find the post. “19. Dave Hoffman May 18th, 2007 at 6:59 am
But from what I read his email addy is not currant. And, it is footage of the damage. Not the tornado itself. Maybe Skilling can help us out? I’ll see what I can find. I’ll keep you posted.
PS Feel free to delete this post. Were kinda going O.T.
The picture from 87th and Harlem is too contrasty to make out, but I have seen other versions of it before, and you can definitely make out the big “ZAYRE” sign in the center of the photo. That shopping center had a Zayre and at the time, I beleive a Hi-Lo supermarket.
Ken Damrau says
I was 7 years old at the time of the tornado, living on 87th place and Menard.
Just about everybody here mentions the color – that sickly green-black color that seemed to coat the entire sky; that is my first memory of the event. When the sky turned that color, it seems to me that everything was still very calm out, maybe some of the tall trees swayed way up high, but that was about it.
Then there was the sound. I lived almost a mile away so I didn’t experience the “locomotive” sound that so many others have described. All I remember is a low rumble. I couldn’t even identify where it was coming from.
Then my mom got scared. I don’t know if she saw something or heard something, or was alerted by the radio, or what, but she started herding us kids into the small closet under the stairs smack in the middle of the house. My mom and siblings were safely in the closet when I realized my dad was standing on the front porch, hands in his back pockets, “watching the weather.” I figured that if it was safe enough for Dad, it was safe enough for me, so I went out to join him to see what I could see.
Mom was having none of it. So in the midst of the tornado, I was caught in a tug-of-war between my frightened mother, and my studiously nonchalant father. I never did see the funnel cloud. Or if I did, I didn’t recognize it.
My next recollection is from the following days. It was hard to get about because of the street closings and police presence. We did take a driving tour of our neighborhood and I remember spotting several damaged homes, some even missing their roofs, which totally fascinated me. Looking back I find it interesting that the damage I saw, so close to me geographically didn’t really register with me in an emotional way.
The thing that did finally make an impression on me was my first post-tornado trip down Cicero Avenue on my way over to St. Paul’s Church (behind the big, round Hilton Hotel). Everything was still a mess, there was debris scattered everywhere. Then we slowed down. I looked around to see why, and there it was-the roller rink. My friends and I frequented that roller rink. I don’t know how to describe what I saw there. “Destroyed” is not the right word. It was sort of like what you would expect if the building had been struck by a giant egg beater.
Seeing the remnants of that building, a building I knew, a building that I had been in, a building where kids *just like me* had died, was visceral. It was the first time that I’d ever contemplated the fact (or even the possibility) of my own mortality. I remember feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach. It has been over 40 years and the afterimage of that building – that graveyard – is indelibly a part of me, as if it had been branded onto my brain with a hot iron.
Keith Haglund says
We lived at 101st, 2 blocks east of Cicero. I was at home w/ my 2 younger sisters. Both our parents were at work. I looked out our kitchen window to the west and saw a huge black wall rapidly approaching. I yelled for my sisters to get to the basement and we crawled under the pool table. The tornado hit well north of us but I’ll never forget the site of that storm.
My uncle, a carpenter, stopped at Shoot’s(?) Tavern for a beer. He was about to order another, but realized the storm was moving in and decided to leave. Shoot’s was later destroyed by the tornado.
Caran DuBois says
I was 13 years old and lived at 79th place and Central Park in Chicago. Mom had been watching the sky, and all of a sudden our chihuahua came in from outside and made a beeline to the basement. Just then, the warning was broadcast on the radio – a tornado on the ground at I think it was 103rd and Willow Springs Road. I do remember that the radio guy did say Willow Springs Road. Mom said “that’s it – get in the basement”. I was terrified. Mom followed me downstairs with a transistor radio and flashlight, made me get underneath the desk in the southwest corner of the basement, and piled throw rugs on my head. I could not get Duke (our chihuahua) to come over to me – he insisted on staying in the middle of the basement. Mom was sitting on a stool about 10′ from me – looking out the basement window. I said “how does it look?” and she said “It don’t look bad.” I started to come out from out of my fortress – and I saw green, rolling very low clouds just to the Southwest – I said “let me see” and she yelled “GET BACK UNDER THAT DESK, IF ANYONE’S GONNA GET THEIR HEAD BLOWN OFF IT’S GONNA BE ME!”
We didn’t hear it, and we didn’t see the funnel. Once the “all clear” was sounded on the radio, mom let me come out from under the desk. It was well past time for my father to get home. He worked at 127th & Kedzie. Mom was beginning to panic. By then we were hearing reports of what the tornado did.
We were still in the basement when my dad came in the back door – 2 hours late. Mom calmly said “it got pretty bad here” to which my dad replied “I was IN IT!” Mom told him to shut up because I guess I went pale at that point. His story was that he was headed home on Kedzie Avenue when he saw a black wall of clouds on the ground approaching him across the cemeteries. To his west were the cemeteries. To his right were buildings on Kedzie avenue. He did not see a funnel, just a wall of clouds (which, in retrospect, probably WAS the tornado – it was WIDE) he saw roofing coming off a building directly on his East, and made a panicked U-turn. Then he thought “That thing is going towards my family!” and instinct told him to try and get home to us. Dad was driving a 66′ Ford Galaxie 500. A man in a VW beetle offered to take him on through – and try to beat the tornado. Dad said “nope, I’m going”. Debris was flying around and he saw the VW behind him get lifted up and smashed down on its roof.
That night, since phone communications were down, we tried to get in the car to check on two of my aunts who lived in the direction of the damage. A neighbor came running waving his hands and told my dad he had four flat tires. We never even noticed – I guess we were all still in a panic. So, we could not go anywhere.
The next day, the national guard let daddy walk into the damaged area in Hometown to check on a friend, whose house had been spared. He came home telling horrible stories of the damage.
A friend from church lost her father in that tornado. He died in the intersection of SW Hwy and 95th street where most of the fatalities were.
We attended his wake – the funeral homes on 95th street were inundated and the caskets were literally head to foot lining the walls of the chapels. Some were closed.
Some days later, we did see the damage. The debris had largely been cleared by then, but where one would think a tornado of that size would have just swept away everything in its path, it was selective – as if it had a mind of its own. One house would be totally gone. The one next door, only missing a few shingles.
I have had a fascination with and terror of tornadoes since that day in 1967.
Debra Smerz-Rapp says
I was just over 9 years old the day of the Oak Lawn tornado. My Mom had left me in charge of my 2 younger sisters, 5 years, and 9 months while she drove to near 79th and Cicero to pick up my Dad from a construction jobsite. I was very mature and was able to babysit when my Mom needed to run short errands. My friend from across the street had come over to play, so she had permission to stay while Mom was gone. I recall that green color in the sky when I looked out the window, I knew things didn’t look or sound normal anymore! We huddled next to the front door, all tucked into the corner as the storm hit. We heard breaking glass and terriable winds, but were unaware of a tornado. While still in that corner, the friends’ Mom came to take us all back to her house. We didn’t see any immediate damage, until we got up to the neighbors porch, looked north toward 95th and Massasoit and saw the total destruction. I remember standing on the porch and saying “the building my Dad built is destroyed”. The neighbor Mom tried to make me look away as she knew how concerning the event was. Once inside, of course all power and phones were out of service, so no T.V. news or anything could be accessed. Meanwhile, my Mom has turned back on foot after getting as far as Southwest Highway and Cicero because the storm was approaching behind her. A man along SW hway begged her to take shelter in his basement as the storm roared overhead. After the winds died down she started back out on foot again, heading toward us. She turned down Tulley off SWHway to see my Grandparents home with all the windows shattered and the roof completly gone, the garage peeled away with all 4 sides laying next to the concrete floor. My Grandparents were thankfully at work, and their Boxer dog was sitting quietly in the living room amid hundreds of pieces of broken glass, plaster, wood, tile, shingles, keeping guard. As Mom continued on toward home an Oak Lawn Fireman she knew picked her up and said he would try to get her as close to our house as he could. While in the car he tried to comfort her, praying for the best, just as a message came over the police-type radio that “95th and Massasoit was a complete disaster”. With our house being on 96th, she was panic stricken. Within an hour or so, she did make it home. We were still at the neighbors. I remember her sobbing with joy when she walked in and found us all safe. Hours went by before we heard from Dad, he had grabbed a ride into town and was immediatly asked to help with the disaster relief. Once he managed to get home and see that we were allright he went back to help for days after that. I was in 3rd grade at St. Geralds( Sister Suzanne), our school was hit, we finished the year in the basement of a church at State Rd. and Central. 4th grade was spent at the newly built St. Nicholas Greek School. I will never forget the events of that day. As a parent now, I can only imagine the pain and worry my parents had, not knowing if we were safe! My Granparents home was repaired and years later after my Gram remarried our family moved into that house. I can only wish I had photos of the homes and my school. I did see the photo posted here of St. Geralds; that is the only time I have ever seen it. Thanks for posting that! We were so blessed to survive the terriable events of that day.
Eileen McCarty says
I remember you from grade school at St. Geralds. If you want to contact me, you can from this site.
E. Kest says
My story is darkly comedic. I was 5 years old at the time, living near 101st and Western. When I was a kid, I LOVED watching storms. Just had to look at the drama of every thunderstorm. I thought it was cool.
So there was five-year-old me, sitting on the back step, seeing the COOLEST green clouds swirling above me. Wowwww… so fun to watch!
But darn those grownups… they just HAD to grab me away from my cool storm view and drag me in the basement! I didn’t know… I just was mad that they were acting so darn wierd when there was such a cool storm to watch outside!
In later years, the grownups would talk about the Oak Lawn tornado, but I never really understood the seriousness of it.
Recently I decided to look up on the internet to find out what that old memory was all about. YIKES! Nobody had told me it was THAT serious. I remember some houses missing on 105th Street, just empty lots. Holy #$%!, that must have been tornado damage! Only 4 blocks from my house!
Well, you sure could not have explained that to the five year old version of me, but the me of today UNDERSTANDS… and I send my prayers to those with very sad memories and just a little bit of an apology too, in a way.
Pat Shannon Navadomskis says
It was an eerily warm day with suffocating humidity. It was Friday and every Friday I caught the Blue South Suburban Bus to get to my sister’s house in Oak Forest to baby sit. Baby sitting paid pretty well and I helped with the CCD program on Sundays at St. Damien’s. (My older sister was keeping me away from trouble). The sky was just a horrible color we were at 87th and Western . The bus driver looked down 87th street and said, “I AM NOT MAKING ANYMORE STOPS UNTIL THE END OF THE LINE.” You can get off on the rebound. HE must have seen the tornado coming and probably saved the lives of anyone on that bus that may have gotten off. The tornado cuased major damage to cars on 87th . By the time I made it to 147th and Western it was a downpour .That was good because that meant the tornado has passed. My brother in law picked me up and we were unaware of the tornado and the damage as of yet. By the time we got to my sister’s she already knew something—She was an old Hometown person and had many friends still there. We also had my beloved Aunt Mary, (her house was fine) at 87th and Beck, but she walked home right after from National were she worked AND IT WAS DESTRUCTION all over. I know my sister went to LCM hospital to donate blood or help and found a dear friend in very bad shape – his car had tumbled all over and he was very cut up. I remember the long months following and the spirit of people helping each other out. My Uncle Tom’s house was totaled.
Denise Menagh says
To Caran DuBois: Possibly your friend from St. Gerald’s was my aunt Karen Jackson? My grandfather, William R. Jackson, was one of the victims of that tornado. He was 51. He had been at the Shoot’s Tavern, 95th & SW Hwy, to see friends when it hit. That was leveled. He actually died of carbon monoxide poisoning because he was trapped under piles of wreckage and there had been automobiles still with their engines running. I was only 3 and do not remember any of it. But I remember the aftermath. Hypervigilance. And my Mom crying, but not knowing why until much later. My brother had been born a week before and was named after him. My grandmother became a widow, and my aunt who was a freshman at OLCHS, lost her father. She was on the swim team and was supposed to have practice that day, but it was canceled for some reason. My grandfather was a “Finn”, a great big tall man with BLACK hair and a big smile. He was alot of fun to be around, a loving husband, and a good father. My grandmother, Irene, and my aunt, all the families were so brave. God rest him, and the others that lost their lives. Thanks to all the emergency personnel for their exhausting work on behalf of the families that lost and the whole village who were affected by this disaster. If you didn’t know, they recently did a documentary on the History Channel or the Weather Channel, in which this tornado was featured.
Phil Persson says
I was 11 years old when the tornado hit and living in Evergreen Park. It passed a mile north of our house. All we saw was really high winds. My uncle lived in Oak Lawn so my mother was able to get us past the National Guard troops and into Oak Lawn to see the devastation. We toured the neighborhoods just east of the Oak Lawn High School on foot. The areas they would let us access, the homes were totally gone. There were blocks of homes that were still laying in rubble to the south of where we were.
I think my mother wanted me to see just what a tornado could do so I would always respect them. Even now in the 21st century they cannot always predict when one of those killer storms will hit. That is part of the reason I now live in the Phoenix area. However, I still sometimes have tornado dreams.
Eileen McCarty says
I was 10 years old and lived in Oak Lawn. I have lived in Phoenix too for a long time!
Caran DuBois says
To Denise Menagh: My friend’s father was John Mobley. He was killed at the intersection of Southwest Highway and 95th Street. I live in North Carolina now, but when I come “home” to the Chicago area and pass by that intersection, I always remember that day and the destruction. My adult children are really tired of my telling them what happened at that intersection. I hope neither of them ever have to see or experience a tornado.
Lloyd Foster says
I was 11 years old, living 6 blocks north of the high school. I remember the rain, the clouds so close to the ground that it seemed as if you could reach up and touch them. Day turned in to night for just a few minutes, and yes I sounded like a freight train just south of the house.
After it was all over, remember the destruction, high school, the store across the street, the bus barn, all destroyed. The destruction up Southwest highway, houses without roofs. And then, the worst of all, Oak Lawn Roller Rink, the children! The destruction still is vivid in the mind.
I will remember at every cross road along 87th street, north of the house, was a national guardsmen controlling entrance into the area.
I have not lived in Oak Lawn for the last 30 years, but just two years ago, brough the family and talked about what had happened.
Barbara Tietz says
That fateful day, I was in 4th grade, and was staying at a babysitters until my dad came home from work, my mom worked until 11:30pm. My babysitter lived 2 houses off the corner of 96th and Marion. which was right in the path. We watched out the window as the starlite screen exploded into pieces. I was dragged into the “Dorothy” style entrance to the basement through the back door of the house. When I got to the opening of the basement, I was pulled back, and I saw the basement collapse in front of my face. The noise was just like the freight train everyone speaks of. Once the silence came, we smelled natural gas, and left the shelter, seeing cars just feet away from landing one the only way out. The house next to us to the south, the only think holding it up looked like support posts in the basement, and I saw the family crawl out between the washer and dryer. Everything around us was distruction. We actually lived between 95th and 96th an Merton, which was 1 block east of where by babysitter’s home was. My neighbor that lived across the street from my house, came and looked for me as he was going to his brothers house, which was about 3 house south of my babysitters. I was a basket case for years, running down to the basement if I felt the sky was offcolored like it was that day. I moved to Wisconsin, my Husband and my 2 boys are on the volunteer fire department here, and Im sure you all heard of the Tornado that hit Wheatland, WI on January 7th 2008? They were about 500 yards from where that tornado hit, at an accident scene trying to extracate someone from an overturned van. I was on the Deck, and this tornado was about 3 miles north of my home. Tornado in January? Believe me, brought back awful memories from April 21, 1967. So sorry so many lost their lives. This tornado was a F3, but luckly no one was injured or hurt. My oldest who was to be 20 on January 8th, said “Mom, Im sorry I teased you so many years about here comes a tornado”, “Thats the scariest thing I have ever lived through”. After 40 years, flashbacks came easy, thats for sure.
cathy conway says
Are you Barb Neitz? And who was your baby sitter? I remember a house that was right next to the Mulrenins that was on Marion St. that was completely knocked down. I lived at 9600 Merton.
Steve B. says
Boy, that was so long ago now. I only remember the news accounts, plus we still have the news insert from the Chicago Sun Times with the color photos of the devistation.
I was not alive during the tornado. But I live about 1 mile OLCHS. I can’t imagine a tornado going through the Oak Lawn area. Learning about this tornado really changes the way I think about the intersection of 95th and Southwest Highway.
Ray Alstrom says
I was 13 at the time, an 8th grader at St. Gerald. I remember getting out of school that day and hurrying home to get started on my paper route delivering The Oak Lawn News. It was an incredibly muggy day. I was down to the last few papers, working my home and it began lightning intensely. I have vivid recollections of taking refuge on front porches, waiting for each lightning bolt to finish and running to another house before the next bolt struck. I finally made it home on the 87th block of Sproat Ave. My mother worked nights as a mail sorter at the Post Office and was sleeping prior to going to work for the evening. I was keeping an eye on my younger sisters, and watching TV which was being interrupted with frequent reports of tornado watches and warnings. I remember hearing mention of a tornado in Crystal Lake right around the time that I got an eerie feeling – which I’m sure was due to a combination of an unusually dark sky, strange sound winds and a strange green hue to the view outside our windows. I went and looked out my sister’s bedroom windows which faced the south/southwest and couldn’t figure out what it was I was seeing. It looked like swirling black smoke with “birds” flying around – which I realized later was debris in the distance. I ran and woke my mother up and distinctly remember saying the words “you’d better come see this”. The tornado must have still been quite a distance because it still had not come close enough to produce the heavy winds. My mom took a look out of the window and she realized right away what it was, and so did I because I recognized the outline of an A-frame roof flying into the air. I have no idea how close it was. My mother screamed for everyone to get in the hallway. We had no basement. I remember grabbing a mattress off one of the beds and we all tried to hide under it. My mother led us in prayer – the Memorare. The noise was incredible similar to what I experienced later in life working around jet engines on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Once things quieted down we got up and started looking out the door and windows. There was no damage to our house, but we could see debris starting a couple houses away facing south. Our electricity was off and we had no idea how bad things were, but we started getting tidbits of information from a walkie-talkie set I’d gotten that past Christmas. The normally quiet channel was lit up with all sorts of chatter. I remember listening to the walkie-talkie with my mom and hearing about people trapped in the roller rink. My older brother had run an errand to Dominicks at 87th & Cicero for my mom prior to the storm hitting and was trapped inside the store when the electricity failed and the electric doors wouldn’t open. He and a friend walked home and then continued walking south towards OLCHS and when they finally came home they told us all about the incredible damage they witnessed. It was hard for us to fathom what they were saying. It wasn’t until a day or two later that my mom let my friend and I venture out and start looking around. I remember the shocked feeling at seeing my school, St. Gerald devastated. I remember seeing the 7th & 8th grade “newer” wing of St. Gerald with all the windows blown out but structurally sound. What impressed me at that time – and to this day was the life sized statue of the Virgin Mary which stood in the corner of the wing of the 7th/8th grade section totally unscathed and undamaged, though everything surrounding it was. As people who experience the tornado that day will tell you, it will remain vividly etched in memory for the rest of our lives.
Tim Schmidt says
We lived at 6259 West 91st Place or 1 block east of Ridgeland at 91st. I was 13 years old. I had just got home from Simmons School and did what I did every day after school which was to walk in to the house and turn on the Three Stooges. The little portable TV was on the kitchen table and there were two picture windows in the kitchen, one facing south and one west, when the Stooges were interupted with a weather report stating “In case of a tornado” and the power went out. Looking up I could see the sky turning and it looked like the whole sky was revolving. I had three brothers in the house already, Tom was already in the basement and I grabbed David and Danny and tossed them in to the basement where Tom and I watched the storm from the little basement window over the utility sink.
My dad was a mechanic at Kole Pontiac at SW Highway and Cicero, and he was also a member of the Columbus Manor Volunteer Fire Department. My mom went to pick up my older brother Rick at the High School and was there when the tornado hit. The car my mom was driving was Dad’s 1964 Pontiac Catalina 2+2 Convertible, cobalt blue with white interior, and Dad’s pride and Joy, having just repainted the car. The car was blased with debris and was tossed around as my mom raced away from the school.
Dad, was called over to the roller rink where he had pulled kids out of the devastation and rubble. A sad story he would tell all of his remaining days.
The day after the storm, some friends and I road all over town on our Sting Rays looking at the damage. The bar and grocery store at SW and 95 were gone, Fischer’s Motel was wrecked.
Alan, Joe, and Dennis Broadbent were our neighbors next door. Kieth McGee lived on 92 Street, Marge Bulthius lived in the house to the west across the street. There were no houses across the street to the north of us it was still a field. South of us on Mobile was an open field and we could see the top of the Starlite Drive-in theater screen, it was gone from our view, bent over by the tornado.
Rumor has it that the storm touched down on the porch of the house next door to Simmon’s School, but that’s probably just the way 13 year olds would have said it happened!
Next door to Simmon’s School (east) was the Big Top hamburger joint where all the kids hung out after school.
Across from the school was EJ Korvette’s or Kresge’s and the Studio movie theater, and the Starlite was behind them.
Down the street on 95th at Marion street, was Dot’s Spot and the best hot dogs in the world. It was not damaged.
Karen Davis (Goetz) says
We lived 96th and Merrimac Ave..just 4 blocks from the Starlite Drive-in…my twin sister and I were walking out of OLCHS at about 4:15 in the afternoon, the sky at that time was dark with a greenish hue..Kathy and I didn’t know about any warnings..we were pick up from school by our mother just coming home from work at Litle Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park…she drove across the street to the National Grocery store to cash her pay check…Kathy and I sat in the car listening to the radio and that is the first time we heard the warnings…mom came back to the car and we drove home..Kathy and I were nervous about the weather. We’d always had a “evacuation” plan if we were to have a bad storm..we’d go to our friends house that was a block up from where we lived and 2 blocks down..only a 6 min run on a good day…mom was fixing supper..then the electricity went out at 5:27 pm…I wanted to leave and my dad said if we were scared to go to the back room and get under my parents bed..which is exactly what I did..my little brother was next to me, Kathy was next to him and my parents couldn’t fit under the bed but pulled the mattresses over them…the noise was deafening…like a thousand freight trains..it was over in seconds…we climbed out from our make-shift shelter and counted our blessings…the devestation was remarkable..still unbelievable 40 years later..we then learned it was a violent tornado, that when it struck the Starlite Drive in movie theater, it kinda bounced back up in the sky, and was just coming back down as it was going over our house to being back on the ground a block and a half a way…what I remember most vividly to this day, it the sounds of buzz saws all night long as people were being found…buzz saws sounds for days later..even when we got snow 3 days later…I have never been the same since, something like that changes a person forever..the high school was hit by the swimming pool area, all the kids in the roller rink, all the people who lost their lives that day…they used the VFW to bring bodies to, my family was truely blessed that day…our house sustained minimal damage, a couple of broken windows I think was all..it was amazing that Christ Community Hospital wasn’t hit..it was headed that way, but turned and hit Hometown instead..then found out the tornado also hit my grade school, St. Geralds, was heartbreaking, the nuns standing outside looking at the damage…These memories will be forever etched in me…
Karen Davis (Goetz) says
But there was something that I forgot to say earlier when I first posted…I applaud the people, the voluteers and the rescue and assistance Oak Lawn received after the tornado passed…it was truly amazing to watch as people helping other people and most they didn’t even know…I was proud to be living in Oak Lawn at the time…scarey as it was, life changing as it was, it was truly comforting to watch the people of Oak Lawn come together in a unified effort to help and offer aid when it was so desperately need…my hats off to all of you…thanks
Mike Gallagher says
I did not see the tornado in 1967 and my experience pales next to someone who saw the tornado and saw its destruction. I was playing baseball in Holy Redeemer School’s parking lot. It was unusally hot and humid fro a spring day. my friends and i decided to go and buy some pop at the A & P grocery store at 95th and Central Park. We went inside for abour five minutes. When we walked in it was about five o’clock and was still light. It was pitch black when we came out of the store. It was not raining and was quiet. We ran into the store and told the people working at the store. we stayed inside the store and then it began to rain and hail. the wind blew with such strentgh tat the shopping carts started rolling from the A&P parking lot into 95th street. We were in the fourth grade at the time and had never seen anything like this. we thought it was amazing , but at the same time we felt afraid. We were pretty naiive and did not realize that there was a devastating tornado one mile to the west. We stayed at the store for about ten more minutes and decided to run home. I was only ten and felt I would be safer at home. I ran one block with my friend and when we parted I told him I would call him. I got home safely and my older brother was the only one home. He said to get in the basement because there was a tornado. My father was a doctor on the staff of Little company of Mary. I remember him telling me that he worked in the emergency room that day. Children who were skating at the Oak Lawn Roller Rink were brought in and had compound fractures, broken bones sticking out through their skin. I am sure that he spared me a lot of the details.
Frances Adkins says
I remember that day like it was only a couple years ago. A very gray and warm day. The clouds were low and very dirty looking. Some sun peeked out at times but for the most part it was a typical albeit warmer that usual April day. After doing laundry downstairs, I was coming up the stairs and noticed how dark it was in the house for only 4:30 in the afternoon. I looked out the picture window to see we were in for a bad storm, so I closed up the windows and went out and closed the garage door after putting away the patio chairs. Around 5pm, the sky was an erie color of green that I never have seen before but there was no thunder and only light rain. A little while after that, I heard a rumble like a train in the distance. I lived near Chicago Ridge and trains were always going through but this was getting louder and louder. I stepped outside on the porch and saw a mass of black clouds moving rapidly and tree branches blowing in the air. At the time I didn’t know it was a tornado and it seemed to be over in less than a minute. I was taken by shock to later hear it was a tornado and the path of it was 3 blocks from my house! That experience left me shaken and leery of spring storms for a long time after that.
Mike L says
42 years have passed since that deadly, and tragic Friday. Let us take a moment to remember the following sould that were taken April 21, 1967..
*Ages, and places of residence at time of death are listed.
Bernice Andrews , 25 Joliet
Helen Atchley , 81 , Chicago
Bernadette Brady , 8 Oak Lawn
Bernard Brady , 43 , Oak Lawn
Edward J. Burman , 65 Oak Lawn
Patrick Calascibetta , 46 Oak Lawn
Joan Casey , 30 , Oak Lawn
Christine Casey , 18 months , Oak Lawn
Annette Clark , 21 , Worth
Harold F. Cody , 70, Oak Lawn
Patrick Andrew Golden , 39 , Oak Lawn
Edward Griffith , 45 , Oak Lawn
Ernie Gunnarson , 59 , Oak Lawn
Karleen Gunnarson , 57 , Oak Lawn
John Haggan , 51 , Oak Lawn
Charlotte Hanley , 50 , LaGrange
Christine Hinds , 13 , Worth
William Hunoway , 47 , Oak Lawn
William R. Jackson , 51 , Oak Lawn
Walter Johnson , 60 , Hometown
Carole Jucius , 22, Oak Lawn
Albert Kriscunas , 42 , Palos Heights
Edward Lipski , 51 , Oak Lawn
John Timothy Martin , 32 , Chicago
Charles McNeil , 65 , Oak Lawn
Grant Miller , 32 , Chicago
John W. Mobley , 46 , Oak Lawn
David Nork , 14 Chicago
Walter Nykiel , Oak Lawn
Albert J. Semaitis , 42 , Evergreen Park
Marjorie Swanson , 40 , Oak Lawn
William Welser , 36 , Oak Lawn
Catherine M. Zenner , 15, Chicago Ridge
May these dear departed Rest In Peace….
f fletch says
Looking SW from 73rd & St Louis that dark Weds aft’n, we could see very clearly the classic elephant-trunk funnel as it swept across S. Cicero Ave. into Hometown. The lime-green sky under the wall cloud to the W. had caught our attention and it took no more than a cursory scan of the horizon to yield what it was about. When the approaching twister became partially obscured by houses on the S. side of 73rd, my reaction was to run towards it…to get a better view across the railroad yard…much to the consternation of my friend Greg’s mom, who was yelling frantically for us to get into the house. I could see it was headed directly for my Aunt’s, to our S. along 87th St, and would’ve almost certainly struck there (and my old neighborhood) if not for a fortuitous right turn at the last moment into St Mary’s Cemetery. From inside the house, we watched fascinated as the terrible storm, now only 1-1/2 miles distant, roped out and dissipated right there in front of our eyes. As did many, I too knew someone lost in the Roller Rink, a kid by the name of David Nork, who was 10 years old at the time, rest in peace. His family lived directly across the alley from ours along S. St Louis Ave. I was 15 then and to say it impacted my life would be an understatement. Which is why I take this opportunity to write this now…
Jon Brecht says
I remember that day well, I was 9 1/2 at the time. We lived at about 86th and California Av. in Chicago, just 3 blocks north of Evergreen Park. My Grandmother looked out of the door to the west and said: a tornado is coming, get down in the basement. I wanted to see it but she would have none of that.
I could see over her shoulder the green color of the sky. I went downstairs and just then my uncle came in the other door in a panic saying he saw cars being picked up from the road on 87th street. Our street was untouched but the thing I remember most was that when we allowed to come up and go outside it was very bright and sunny within a few minutes, so unlike the darkness just minutes earlier. All along the street were slivers of wood just an inch or two thick but 3 to 4 feet long sticking out of the grass on every yard and also thrust under the shingles of many homes. There was also big twisted pieces of corrugated roofing strewn about maybe from a storage shack at Beverly CC that was hit.
I also remember that only one house on California avenue was hit, that was on 86th street, the only house on the block to get hit but it was flattened, that empty lot sat there for many years because everyone was afraid to build on it. Finally many years later after the memories had faded they built on it and sold it finally. Then there was a small communications company on 87th and California that was demolished and also some damage at Beverly CC another block to the east. It seemed that the tornado had bounced quite a bit in that area and only taken out a builing here and there, maybe it was one of the smaller funnels that had spun off from the main tornado.
I was terrified of all storms for at least 3-4 years after that and would always want to go to the basement if there was a slight chance of bad weather. I also welcomed the chance to go to norhern Wisconsin in the summer because I was told it wasn’t possible for tornadoes to form there, which I found out was not true later in life.
I also remember later that summer driving through Oak Lawn and seeing an Apt. builing on the south side of 95th street just east of the intersection with SW Hy., the front wall of the 3 story building was completed torn off but all the furniture still sat in the rooms, just like a doll house, it sat there like that all summer I believe.
We were lucky to have been spared any loss and my heart goes out to those families that did experience a loss.
The fascination with storms still last with me to this day but the fear will always remain with me too.
Thanks to all who have shared their stories.
Jon Brecht says
Sorry, house that was flattened was on 88th and California, not 86th.
Kevin Mulvey says
I was the tender age of 12. My best friend, Robbie, and I were rebels without a clue. Being always into one mischief or another, the two of us thought it would be good fun to try and climb onto the roof of Brandt school gym.( hope my mother doesn’t read this) Both our houses butted up against the school’s ball field. While were were on the roof the sky began to darken. The clouds seemed to hang very low in the sky, healthy earthy gray tones quickly changed to a dark sickly green. Then the rain came down in torrents. We were quickly soaked to the bone. I remember running home across the field with the rain so heavy that it actually hurt. Comming in the back door my Mother was none to pleased that I didnt have the sense to stay in out of the rain. While I was drying out, the rain stopped and everything became deathly silent. Pressure must have dropped because I remeber everything “felt funny”The air felt heavy. The little window at the back of the house wobbled a little and the silense was slowly replaced with a little rumble. Then I heard a women scream. All these years I thought it was my Mother. It was only recently that I found out the high pitched scream came from my older brother.( sorry Bob, secret’s out) The rumbly quickly grew louder and louder. Then I noticed a whistleing quality to the sound and I could feel the rumbling in my belly. I quickly ran into the living room. My Mom and older brother, maybe my younger brother Randy, all were looking at the picture window. It didnt at first register because there were no borders to the funnel cloud. The entire picture window was filled with gray debris moving from my left to my right almost parallel to the earth. I remeber seeing chunks of debris, but I couldnt identify any of it. I didnt have a lot of time to look. My Mom quickly went into”protect the brood” Mode. I dont remember how she got us into the crawlspace so quickle, but she did. I wouldnt be surprised if she picked all three of us up with one hand and opened the crawlspace with the other. There we all were in the dank dark while the whistleing roaring monster seemed to pass overhead. I hear people say it sound like a train going by. Maybe, but only if you are standing 2 feet from the tracks. After that it gets a little fuzzy. I thing we were all in information overload.I do not recall exiting the crawlspace. I recall going to my Grandmothers Apartment on 95th street. Half of the roof was peeled off with half the apartment a wreck. What really struck me as odd was that afoot away from massive destruction there were 2 candlesticks still upright on the TV. The town was a shambles. what were once houses were just masses of rubble. School buses (from what was left of Oak Lawn high) were tossed about.later that night we went back to Gramdmas to try and rescue more belongings. Mom had me stay in the car for safety. She didnt know that there was a downed power line right next to the parking lot. When she went up stairs to the apartment the powerline hit a large puddle and started sparking and jumping like a snake being electracuted. The national guard rolled into town and we had a sentry posted at bothends of our steet. My Mom gave me a thermus of coffee to take to the guardsman. I offered it and he accepted. It really was a differant era. Cant imagine a guardsman accepting post 911 . The devastation was massive, particullarly to a 12 year old boy, But unlike 911 it was just nature at its most awesome.No evil intend, no malice, no forthought. An inpersonal happenstance. No hatred or reprisals to think of. We just picked up and got back to our lives. I had pretty much forgotten about the event until my baby brother brought it up and we started recalling the events of that unforgetable spring day all those years ago.
Bob Mulvey says
Reading my brother’s post above; I am the one that screamed. Come on; I think I had the right! We lived on 90th Street between 51st and 52nd Avenue; the North edge of the path of the tornado.
I was a Freshman at Oak Lawn Community High School that Spring. It was unusually warm and muggy that afternoon. I went home and was working with a power drill building my model railroad when the power went out. Not unsuual because it was raining hard. For no good reason I went to my parent’s bedroom and picked up the phone and it was dead. Again, for no good reason I went to the (South facing) picture window in the living room and there it was…..it was huge with pieces of debris slowly floating on it’s edge. I;m guessing I was looking at it about the time it was hitting 95th & Southwest Highway. I screamed “TORNADO” and our Mom came into the living room with my brothers, saw the monster that filled the sky and immediately hustled us all into the crawl space. The noise was loud and getting louder and I was waiting for the sound of breaking glass and twisting lumber as the roof flew off but after a few minutes, the noise subsided and it was replaced with an erie silence.
We piled into the car to check out the damage. Just one block to the south on Otto Place, pieces of lumber were driven into the ground. As we headed South on 52nd Avenue, there were tree limbs and debris everywhere. We followed the path of devistation to our Grandmother’s apartment at 95th & Massasoit. The roof had been peeled back and the apartment was full of insulation and roofing material. Glass candlesticks on the TV were un-touched but the thermostat on the wall just a few feet away was ripped off. Up the street, a Suburban Transit bus laid on a house. And 95th street slowly became the gathering spot for police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, Commonwelth Edison and Ni-Gas trucks. Anything with a flashing light on it.
Police warned us of looters so we posted watch at Grandma’s place and waited for her and our Dad to get home from their jobs downtown. I think at the time they drove together. As our Dad was stuck in traffic on I-55 (the Stevenson) listening to radio reports of the destruction, the reporters put our house right in the path of greatest damage. But our Dad had to sit in traffic while ambulances and fire trucks from the City of Chicago used the shoulder to race out to Oak Lawn to help. What sheer terror he must have gone through thinking his family might have been killed or injured and powerless to do anything but sit in traffic and listen to the damage reports.
We salvaged what we could from our Grandmother’s place that night. The arcing powerlines did add some excitement and danger. All night the only sounds you heard were chainsaws and sirens. On Saturday National Guardsmen were posted in the streets to discourage looting. Yes, I too remember bringing a Guardsman a thermos of coffee at 90th street and 52nd Avenue as the weather got cooler.
On Sunday, it snowed and I remember passing through several checkpoints to get back to our home after attending Sunday School and Church.
We were off school for a few days while they figured out how to conduct classes and they cleaned up the surrounding area. The roof over the pool came down into the pool, the Spartan Gym was damaged and there was minor damage to the library. They put us on a split shift for the rest of the year so we either started earlier or ended later. I was on the Swimming Team and we were bused to both Reavis High School and Argo High School for practice or ‘home’ meets. Argo was best – home of the never-ending hot shower.
For the rest of the tornado season that year and into next; whenever there was a watch or warning issued by the National Weather Service, the police would cruise up and down the residential streets warning people over their loudspeakers.
About the only thing in the community that did not fully recover was the grocery store at the Northwest corner of Southwest Highway and 95th Street. It was raized and now houses a Red Lobster and a car dealership parking lot.
Until you see it for yourself, you never fully appreciate the degree of utter and total destruction in one spot and then, mere yards away; no damage at all.
Kathy (Zickus) Schaffert says
I remember that day so well, because it was such a grey and still day. Very muggy and not a breeze at all. I was a junior at Oak Lawn Community High School. I lived on 87th Street in Hometown. That was a Friday and I was beginning to get ready to go on a hayride. It was 5:30pm and my brother was in the yard and shouted “There’s a tornado”! My mother ran to the door and saw a huge black cloud, she got us all together (it was close to dinner time so all six of us kids were home) went in the hall and threw a mattress from one of our beds over us and prayed. I managed to see out of our living room window and the sky was green. The twister had passed over us and it was raining. The next thing we heard were sirens. No power and sirens all night. My Dad was working the late shift at NABISCO and was told by his supervisor “You better go home there’s been a terrible tornado close to Hometown” Dad said “I could barely put my foot on the gas to go home”. He got home and was very relieved to see us all standing in the door way.
I remember I was patching holes in my bicycle tire inner tube in our basement on 89th. Street. I can faintly remember a commotion upstairs and I started up the stairs. Iâ€™m not sure who, older brother or sister, came barreling down the stairs pushing me back down and into a steal support pole in our basement. My father deceased years earlier, my mother was shopping at 8th. and Central Ave. at the National Food Store. My second brother was 1 street away from Oak Lawn High School at a friends. I recall huddled with my oldest brother in the basement against the West wall. I could hear what sounded like a freight train coming down the street. My brother stood up to look out the window and said something like “Oh My Godâ€, something that made me start to get up and look out the window. I remember something seamed like dark red, very dark clouds. My brother said “Don’t look at itâ€. I remember thinking it was a monster of some sort(I was only 5 then).I recall that evening sitting with the family in our candle lit living room(the electricity was out).I remember talk of Marshall Law. WE had a large Oak tree in the back yard that split in half and fell on our garage. We had no windows blown out but just a few houses down many of the houses had multiple windows blown out. A few neighbors on 55th Court had their roofs blown off. I remember my mother saying all the windows at the National Food Store where blown in and many people where cut. My sisterâ€™s boyfriend at the time worked at Prince Castle and had glass in his back from the windows being blown in. I recall riding bikes with my brother either the next day or a few days later and seeing trees blown down on every block. Streets blocked from trees. Cars that looked like they drove into houses. I think my mothers 57 Chevy was dented from the hail from the storm. I remember a cold breeze came in very quickly as the storm came in.
Jeff O'Malley says
I was 14 and lived on 87th and Springfield. I remember the ugly shade of green in the sky and the silence before the loud noise that sounded like a train. I saw the huge funnel heading our way from Hometown and we all ran to the basement. When it was over we walked to the Hometown Shopping Center and I remember sirens and the shock of all the people. The next morning I hitched to Beverly C.C. to caddy and realized how serious it was. The trees in Evergreen Cemetery from Central Park to Kedzie had a big path in them where the tornado went through. There was no golf that day at Beverly. The Clubhouse was damaged and the Caddyshack was destroyed. I’ll never forget the sound or the color of the sky. Jeff O’Malley
Ron Kohlmann says
My dad was a cook county deputy sheriff at the time of the tornado. He was able to take me with him on patrol and I was with him at the time the tornado hit. He was dispatched to Oak Lawn and was not able to drop me off at home. The things I saw will stay with me forever. The 3 things that I will remember the most were, straw that was sticking in side a telephone pole like it was through a drilled hole, and a coke bottle with a doll inside of it, and the house with the front completly gone and a car sitting on the second floor like it was parked in a garage.
The thing that still stands out in my mind, ( aside from all the devastation ) was the poles that held the speakers at the Starlite drive-in were all bent exactly the same in the shape of candy canes. Amazing, the power of Mother Nature.
Bob S. says
I was 11 years old and lived on 99th St. near Kenton, one of six kids who attended St. Germaine. We were out playing when the sky became an eerie green. Over the objections of my Mom, my Dad and I ran up to the second floor to see what was going on (while everyone else wisely went down to the basement). We were shocked to see the tornado and another funnel cloud that did not appear to touch down. The sight of the tornado along with the noise of a freight train sent us downstairs quickly to join the others and we fully expected to see the sky any minute. Fortunately for us it did not directly hit our neighborhood. But the power went out and we heard the eerie and continuous sounds of sirens all night.
The next morning we realized that others were not so lucky.
Oak Lawn residents immediately responded to the tragedy and we were told that there were more volunteers than needed so don’t come in the area. The National Guard was set up around the Village perimeter and we had to have our Oak Lawn vehicle sticker to pass. One of the stranger stories involved a classmate’s father. He was driving and was picked up by the tornado and set down, without major injury. However he was in shock and had to be helped by a passerby.
I recall my 6th grade teacher telling us about the Oak Lawn Tornado and that immediately after it passed she went to check on her elderly father who lived near where it went through. When they arrived her father was outside, walking barefoot on broken glass; he was in shock.
Frieda Mobley Wheeless says
My worst memory of this tornado was that my father John Mobley was killed in this , he was on his way home from work, he and my brother roger . Roger lived but my dad didn’t make it , it was a horrible day and i can never forget it.
Timm Artus says
I was three years old and the tornado is one of the earliest memories I have. My baby brother, David, had just been born the previous September. So when it got bad, my Mom put us behind a chest of drawers and told me no matter what happened I was to keep on holding the baby. I remember my Mom standing in the doorway and hearing a howling sound.
We lived at 92nd and Central, just a block from St. Gerald’s. The tornado tore throw the church and school then headed towards my mother’s aunt’s home across from the Masonic Lodge on 52nd.
From there, it ripped within a few hundred feet of my Aunt June’s house near 91st and Cicero before destroying the roller rink. She ducked into a closet with her two little children and felt the house rise and then fall. Houses across the street were shorn in half.
After it stopped (but no one knew if more wasn’t coming) my Mom’s brothers came to pick us up and take us to her Aunt Louis Smith’s house, since she had a basement. I still remember climbing down the dark stairs and seeing all those scared kids staring back up at me.
My Dad, working at the Johnson & Johnson plant in Chicago, didn’t even know there’d been a tornado until a shift change. Then he drove as fast as he could home. The National Guard stopped him at Genaro’s Druge Store at 87th and Central. Showing his driver’s license got him a few blocks closer to us, but he had to run the last few blocks due to all the debris in the road.
He got home to find his wife and two sons gone and a baby bottle heating in a pan of water on the stove. Fortunately, his Uncle Clarence lived two housed down and told him we’d gone to Aunt Louise’s house.
My Mom’s Mother, two brothers Ronny and Steve, and another sister Anita, were all visiting from Central City, Kentucky. My Grandfather called for days until he was finally able to get through to Oak Lawn to find out if his wife, five kids, two sons-in-law, and four grandchildren were okay.
My folks have often praise the Mayor Dumke for his tireless work in getting the ruins torn down and new emergency housing in place, and getting the power lines fixed. Even on crutches, he outlasted many workers.
The tornado came so close to us, Aunt Louis’s, and Aunt June’s. The Lord protected all of us in so many ways. It was no surprise that in 2005, Aunt June’s house was again spared in the Newburg, Indiana tornado. Most of homes on her street were destroyed as well as the properties directly behind her home. The Central City Kentucky Tornado of 2007 missed Ronny’s and Anita’s houses, but destroyed the windows and roof of Uncle Steve’s home. Again, none of them nor their families were hurt.
Kathleen M Zander says
I was 6 years old when the tornado hit. We lived on Oak Center Drive, south of 95th Street. I don’t think my mother know it was tornado as my Mom, brother and I were in the living room looking out the window! I remember everthing was a weird, pea-green color. My poor Dad had been working the evening shift at a factory. He had to walk, as you couldn’t drive a car, through several blocks of houses that were totaly destroyed. I remember him saying he was so afraid that his young family had been wiped out. Our house was not hit. There were a couple of kids from my school that were killed at the Roller Rink.
I am very surprised that I haven’t come across this site sooner but after you read what I have to say you might understand why! As I remember that day, the weather couldn’t make up it’s mind if it was going to be cold or warm, cloudy or sunny, rain or no rain! The only thing that we were getting ready for later in the evening was the confirmation at St. Geralds for my sister Linda, and our forever neighbors in our hearts Sandy. In all the comments that I have read only one mentioned the St. Gerald’s confirmation. Had that tornado struck an hour later only God knows how many more children would have lost their short lives at that time! Not to mention family members also! I was 10 years old at the time and to this day I still have very vivid dreams about tornados. I feel like the dreams are saying that in “this corner” is me, and in “that corner” is the tornado. Even now when there have been some very serious tornado warnings as I make sure that my family is safe, I go outside to confront my advisory. There have only been two times where I thought that my nemisis was near. The “v” in the sky, and sick color of green that’s low. I don’t hear the sirens going off when I’m outside probably because I’m sublime to it because it’s me against it!
I can remember that day, almost like it had just happened last week. My sister and I were home at the time. Our mom and stepfather had left for Indiana that morning to visit his family. I was in grade school and my sister was in H.S. I went to Maddock and my sister went to Reavis. Our dad was coming to pick us up that night. So we were just watching TV at the time they were talking about it on the news. I could see the look on her face. She kept saying I wonder where dad’s at, then the wind started up were always told to open the windows and doors, that would help u,s so that’s what we did. We were at the back door when we could see it. There wasn’t a lot of houses around ours at that time so it was a pretty clear view. I remember my sister started crying and so that scared me, too. We could see stuff flying in the air. The sound was pretty loud. If you ever talked into a mic, just blow into it real hard with the speakers up loud, may come close, and kids banging on pots and pans at the same time will give yourself that feeling, and all of a sudden it got quiet. About 45 minutes after that our dad got there to pick us up. We told him about it, and so he wanted to take a ride to see if he could see anything, and so we drove past the roller rink and then the H.S. I remember my sister started crying all over again. My dad had told us everything was gonna be ok. So we headed for Bellwood where he had lived at the time. All weekend we talked about it with him. On Sunday we got home, our mom had not gotten home yet, within 30 min she was home and she was crying because they had to drive through there to get home. She kept on saying that she was glad that we were safe but felt bad for all the people that went through it. Our stepdad had said it looked like a war zone. I am now in my 50s but every time I hear the tornado warnings it takes me back to that day for just a moment. But I guess driving through the one in Plainfield on Rt. 126 doesn’t help much. I just like to ask God to bless the ones that lived and died that day in ’67 and there families.
Steve Bahl says
I was 19 years of age and in my 1967 Mustang. I had missed a turn off a main road and pulled into a service station at a 4 way intersection to ask directions. I remember that it had at least 2 service bays and possibly 3 with the usual walking office at the end. I was no more than 4 feet from the building. I had just started to get out and the attendant came out. I asked for directions and as he began to answer he just turned and ran into the office without saying a word. At almost the same time everything went black (dark) and my car started to bounce like a ball with both light and heavy pounding. I slightly opened the windows and as best as I could lie across the bucket seats. Hail and debris filled the air but I do not remember hearing the freight train that many speak of in such storms.
When the noise and rocking stopped I sat up and saw the funnel, about 100 yards or less away, going down the street. The cinder block station that I was 4 feet from was gone for the most part and the attendant was just coming up from I guess a cellar under the station and seemed somewhat surprised to see me. There was an 18 wheeler upside down nearby. There was a 2 story white frame house (judging from the debris) across the street on my side of the 4 way and an older person trying to get help. I crossed the street despite down lines. There was another elder with a compound fracture of the femur. I found a large piece of plastic to cover him and then flagged down a stunned taxi driver and asked him to call his dispatcher for help.
While driving back home I was listening to WLS and there was never any mention of the storm. The next day I went to file a claim on my car and the insurance company had not heard of the storm and accused me of being in some sort of accident. Only after my father got involved was the claim accepted.
gina fracassi mazur says
I was 12 when i saw the tornado outside our backyard at 89th and 52nd ave in Oak Lawn. One brick of someone’s house flew in our backyard. Ill never forget that horrible day.
bill polich says
I lived in the Hometown apartments behind the shopping center on Keeler. I was on leave from the Marine Corps to get married the next day at Our Lady of Loretto church. Right about 5:25 myself and the guy that was going to be an usher at the wedding were on our way to pick up the Best Man just off of 87th place in Hometown when I said to Tom (usher) “There’s a garage flying at us!” And right then a whole garage slammed into the street about 40 yards down from us. The Best Man’s parents saw us and we abandoned the car and ran for the house.
I still got married the next day in about half of a church, no electricity-but the Nun’s sang for us while the National Guard stood guard around my Mom’s apartment “in case of looters.” I tried to tell my new wife jokingly that “This is an omen.” In retrospect, I guess it was – we divorced about 8 years later!
My memories, or rather nightmares, of this tornado are that I was 12, living on 99th St. and my father, John Mobley, was killed in this tornado. It was a horrible time for our family and every time I hear warnings I think of that day.
Roger Mobley says
I was 19 at the time. My father John Mobley and I were on our way home from work. We were heading south on Southwest Highway. We live at 99th and southwest highway. When we got to the corner of 95th and sw highway we could not see anything. We pulled over in front of the olhs. Our car was picked up and carried over into the practice baseball field. When I came to I realized my dad was dead. I got out of the car and eventually found my way home. My uncle was waiting for us, so when I got there he took me the hospital in Lagrange. Do I remember the day? Yes, very vividly. If anyone reads this from the old neighborhood get in touch with me.
Ron Janec says
My dad, Edward Janec, had stopped at the Dairy Basket a few minutes before the tornado hit: He ran inside and tried to warn them that a tornado was coming, but I am not sure if anyone believed him.
He raced home(we lived at 85th and Kenton/Scottsdale) and told us to take cover. I ran outside despite this, and actually saw the tornado hit the same area that he had just left(91st and Cicero). It was clear from my vantage point, with a lot of debris swirling around inside it.
Ron Janec says
I should have said in my post that the tornado was transparent from my vantage point(versus clear), with a lot of debris swirling around inside it.
Martin Novick says
Most of my most loved friends and fondest memories lived/happened in and around Merton street ,the trailer park, Terry’s Dept Store and the Drive-In, the area epicenter of the tornado. I was living in Hawaii. I now live in Israel.I am especially happy that the Fuessel family survived.
Bill fuessel says
Hi Frieda I remember that day (as i had written earlier)and what you, Rodger an d your family had gone through….I actually dreamed about the tornado again the othe r night..(will it ever go away?) even here from New Mexico…hope all is well…I remember all of us kids collecting money for your family from Mrs Dangles class. I think we raised $10. dollars…we just really cared and so many of us had experienced that horrible day…..Take care Always Billy Fuessel
Bill fuessel says
Hi Martin I am the youngest of the Fuessels…Thank You for the concern..in regards to my family…I dont really remember you…but i have the same memories of Merton Ave….There was nothing like life in Columbus Manor…unfortunately this event changed that forever..
Debbie Rios says
I will never forget that day. I was 11 yrs old and a student at Harnew school. I was to be confirmed at St. Geralds church that day. I was off school getting ready for confirmation, and I do remember about 1 pm the sky had a very ominous look to it. As I was getting ready around 5:00, to be at the 3rd floor of St Gerald’s school by 5:45 pm. We had the radio on and around 5:23 my mother yelled to all of us kids, there were 4 of us were to take cover at the SW corner of the house. It was green out and the winds suddenly picked up and we all realized it was a tornado. We had no basement, the homes on Monitor Ave were on slabs. The front door was closed as all 5 of us huddled in a corner on the floor shaking. Dad was at work so we were all scared for him and worried, he drives the Suburban Transit bus. Suddenly the front door blew open and I remember mom crawling on the floor to close the door but the winds were way too strong. It felt like it lasted an hour when it was only 5-10 min at least, (just guessing). We were so lucky, we had very little damage to the house. Then dad got home safe and we went to St. Gerald’s church and saw the whole school was leveled to the groud. I got a sick feeling, only 20 min later children would be showing up to be confirmed at the church. We were so lucky like so many other people that day were not. The next day it snowed and was so windy and cold. We wlked around Oak Lawn and saw all the destruction, no power or phone lines for 6-7 days and helicopters flying overhead all night. The national guard came in to protect destroyed businesses from looters. Buses were thrown into a few of the houses acroos from the station. I thank god my dad was ok. To this day my husband and I both being in the tornado are afraid and take storm warnings seriously, and are nervous about tornado warnings. You never forget…….
Lynne Manning Filipiak says
I think I lived behind your house on Menard. I also went to Harnew (11 yrs. old). I’m wondering if I was making my confirmation at St. Gerald’s that day also – I just don’t remember!
Sharon Kimball says
Debbie–We used to live next door at 9129. How is your sister Kathy? I think of you guys often.
Jean Sims says
I was a senior at OLCHS in 1967. I stayed after school to take my lifeguard certification exam and then walked home. It was beautiful day but the wind was unusally strong. I lived on Sproat Avenue just a 1/2 block north of Southwest Highway. One of my chores was to get home and start supper before my mother got home from work. I was in the middle of making a casserole when the phone rang and it was Mom, hysterically yelling that I should get to the basement. She’s heard about the tornado on the car radio and stopped at a gas station to call and warn me. The phone went dead before we could finish the call. I dropped the receiver, grabbed my little dog and ran down the stairs but had no idea what to do then so I just sat down at the foot of the stairs and waited. The wind picked up and I heard little pebbles hitting the windows. All of a sudden the house jumped as if a truck had plowed in to it and all the basement windows blew out. Then it got deathly quite. Finally a gentle rain began to fall.
When I came up out of the basement I discovered that the bay window in the living room had blown in when our neighbor’s roof sailed across the street. On the west side of the street several homes looked as though a giant had stepped on them. In our backyard the concrete floor of the garage was there, but there was no sign of our garage or anything that was in it. It was so unbelievable. Our home sustainded damage worthe 50% of its value, but we were lucky because it was repairable.
The National Guard came in to prevent looters from preying on people in the disaster zone, and the American Red Cross came around checking on people and passing out food and blankets. The craziest thing was that while it seemed like we were in the middle of a war zone, only a few blocks away everything was normal.
When classes resumed, the high school administrators called the senior class together to tell us that every school in our district had offered the use of their gyms/field houses for our commencement. Our only on-campus option was to have commencement outside on the football field. We were total Spartans and said “We want it here”, so that was the plan. The afternoon of commencement got greyer and windier. We processed in all decked out in our caps and gowns. We had all just been seated, our families in the stands, when the sky turned green again and a thunderstorm let loose. We scrambled into the school as fast as we could move. Our teachers divided up the diplomas alphabetically, stood up on cafeteria tables, and yelled out our names. They tossed our diplomas to us like frisbees!
For years after, I would just quake when the spring storms would come. I had nightmares about it regularly for at least 10 years. I’m generally a pretty confident person, widely travelled, professional – but a really good storm could send me in to a panic. The first time my kids rented Twister and insisted I watch it, I had to get up and run out of the room. The sound effects were so real I could barely stand it. I watched the rest of the movie while standing in the family room doorway.
One last note, about a year after the tornado I found my little Instamatic camera and it had a roll of film in it. When I had it developed I discovered that the first 10 photos were of the record setting Blizzard of ’67. The last 10 or 12 were almost the identical scenes after the tornado!
greg ruscitti says
I can remember the oak lawn tornado by my aunt’s house she lived on manard just of of 95th st she was lucky her house wasn’t touched she was a block and a half from 95th st. i saw that the tornado went down 95th st and the damage that had happened were it had gone thru the high school and all the way down 95th into evergreen park.I was still young at the time but i couldn’t forget seeing the damage it caused. several years later my aunt sold her house and moved behind the high school at 95th and mc vickers.i asked her why she would want to do that i said what if this happens again . To this day any tornado warning or watch scares me after being stuck in the lombard tornado with my ex wife that was enough.
Keith Gansel says
I was in 8th grade at Covington School and lived at 9230 S 51st Ave. right in the path along Southwest highway. I had been playing indian ball at Covington all afternoon with friends with on and off again rain with some sun and wind not aware of any warnings. As I remember it was fairly warm for that time of year. Got home about 4:30, quarter to 5 with my mom screaming “Where have you been, there’s been tornado warnings all afternoon!” I was soaking wet and changed into my pajama bottoms for dinner which we always promptly ate at 5. After dinner,(we never took long) , my dad, mom, brother, and I sat down in our living room. My mom said loudly,”What’s that?” Dad said,”Oh, it’s just a train running through uptown.” Ya know by the army tank on 95th street. It got a little louder and I stated” Yeah ,it’s just a train.” It started getting much louder and mom shouted”That’s not a train!!”
We bolted for the basement and made under our pool table just before the windows blew in. Afterward my dad inspected the upstairs. We had lost our roof and our garage along with a screened in back porch. Nobody hurt. We were lucky. My dad was a carpenter contractor and his guys had a new roof on the house in two days. His generators kept electric going for the neighbors until power was restored. I remember it snowed the next day with the temperature drop. It certainly mad cloud watchers of all the neighborhood. I remember it almost exactly.
George Keene says
I was 17 and working part time for comed at 79th and Lawndale. We we’re washing 3rd floor indoor office windows facing west. We had a perfect view of the storm (tornado) I will never forget that view. It was the entire sky turning from grey to a greenish color. Someone ran into the room and said we had to report immediately to the basement. A tornado was in the area. We stayed there for an hour or so. There was no power or phones. I lived in Chicago Ridge and was worried about where the damage was and if my parents were ok and if our home was damaged. I will never in my life forget my trip home. I seen vehicles that were tossed around upside down and sideways up against fences. Normally a 20 min ride took me 2 hours. Chicago Ridge was spared with just some wind damage. My friend Don and I walked to oaklawn to view the damages like stupid 17 year olds would do. It was now dark and what I seen that night will always be etched in my mind. It was horrible. I remember how there was no sound except occasional sirens. Just the temperary lighting and red flashing light from copcars and firetrucks. THe closest thing to a war zone I’ve ever seen! We came up behind the vfw hall and there was all kinds of activity there. I thought it was set up for emergency medical treatment. A woman came running up to us screaming and holding an infant who was bloody. She ran into the vfw hall only to find out that it was actually set up as a morgue. It was awful as you could see the sheets over the victims. One vivid memmory I have was seeing a blue suburban bus that was laying on its side on top of a bussiness on 95th street. It was just a terrible tragedy for all those who lost family or friends not to mention the 100’s of damaged homes and bussinesses. One of my classmates Cheryl Zenner lost her sister that night. So Sad!
Steve Brewer says
I remember that day and the devastation. My brother and I went to school at St. Blase in Argo and were on the school bus on our way home. One of my school friends said to me that the sky looked like the color of hay, like in the Wizard of Oz just before the tornado came. I agreed with him and didn’t think any more about it. We lived near 87th & Ridgeland and when we got home mom and one of her friends were in the front of the house talking. My brother did like all good children do and went outside to play instead of doing our homework. After a little while we noticed that the sky was getting darker in the west so we went to the front of the house and went out to play near mom and her friend. Mom was talking and told us to go back in the house that she would be right in. As we were in the house my brother, sister and I noticed that the house was getting darker inside and had a greenish tint. So I went out to the front yard where mom was hurriedly saying her good bye’s and as her friend drove off she yelled at me to get back in the house and get every one in the hallway. I remember looking up and the sky was almost OD green in color, I didn’t understand what all the commotion was about until she came through the front door yelling that a tornado was coming, get in the hallway right now and lay down on the floor, we didn’t have a basement. We did just that and then all hell let loose. I remember the lights blinked then went off, the siren was going off but I could barely hear it, the lightning and the thunder, the howling wind and hail. I remember hearing a rumbling, constant rumbling between the sounds of thunder. Later on , what seemed like several hours, my dad came home. He worked out at Argonne National Laboratories and literally followed the tornado home. He said that he had to verify his address before he could get to 95th and Ridgeland and home. He said that the damage was terrible and the drive in, the Starlight, was destroyed.
The next day he had to get gas in his car so my brother and I piled in the car with him and drove toward the gas station at 87th and Harlem. We were stopped by the National Guard and address and identification checked, lights were still out and I remember the flashlight searching inside the car. It wasn’t until the lights came back on that we went to look at all the devastation. We saw the drive in, what was left of it, and went down 95th street toward Southwest Hwy. Most of the debris was cleared but the food store that was on the corner of 95th & Southwest Hwy., was completely smashed and the high school was severely damaged also the bus station was gone and there were several damaged buildings. We stood on the new pedestrian bridge and surveyed the devastation. A few days later we drove around the neighborhoods to check on friends of the family that lived south of 95th street south of the new water tower. Many of the homes were destroyed back there. Another one of mom’s friends lived in that area although she was ok her house was slid northeast off its foundation and partially collapsed.
I was 11 years old back then and the devastation and loss I saw stayed with me. I remember for days after the tornado bodies being pulled out of the wreckage of the food store, a construction worker being killed while repairing Oak Lawn Community High School. I remember the rebuilding of Oak Lawn but most of all I remember the lives lost.
When severe storms come through the area I always look for the Hay Colored Sky and signs of high winds and head for the basement. I tell my children about the ’67 tornado and how fast it it moved. I tell them that if severe weather is forecast, be prepared to move to safety quickly and not to take for granted that nothing will happen.
The Oaklawn Tornado was most devasting, I lived in Palos hills at 101 st pl. in the 1967, we were at dinner at the time. My mother had ask me did i wash my hands and i was told to
go wash them. At that time i noticed dark clouds in the sky and called my mother to look by the time we got to her bedroom the sky was green and we noted the tornado
coming. My father had got us all in to the closet in center of the house, we had no basement. The tornado did damage to our neighbors house and across and the tornado preceded towards our house , but luckly it took a turn hit our neighbors garage then took a leap towards oaklawn area it was the most frightful day of my life.
I didn’t live in Oak Lawn, on that day I lived in Midlothian at 146th & Keystone. I worked in Oak Forest and my husband worked in Chicago on 22nd Street. He car pooled and I was to pick him up at 95th & Pulaski at 6:00 o’clock. Normally when he rode with this friend, I met him at 95th & Cicero, but his friend was going to his parents’ house that day, so our corner had changed. I picked up my 18 month old daughter from the babysitter across the street from our apartment and headed north on Keystone to turn onto Pulaski. It began getting very dark and windy and before I got to the corner, things began blowing through the air, so I turned around to go home. We lived in a garden (basement) apartment and I figured it’d be better to wait til the storm passed. When I turned back south, the sky to the southwest was totally black and ugly. I parked the Volkswagon, got the baby out of her carseat in the back, and by that time it was terribly windy and rainy. I remember kicking off my high heels, leaving them on the lawn, and running to our house carrying the baby. We got inside and into the closet which we’d designated as our safe place, and waited for the storm to pass. About 15 minutes later, the sun came back out, I changed the baby and myself out of our wet clothes and I ventured out….there was no damage, just lots of leaves and twigs and trash can lids all around. I was a relatively new driver at that time, so I didn’t ever listen to the radio while I was driving, thus had no knowledge of what had happened.
As I made my way north on Pulaski, I didn’t see anything unusual, but as I began getting further north, the stop lights at intersections were all off….I assumed that the thunderstorm and caused a power failure.
When I finally got to 95th Street, my husband was waiting on the corner and when he got in the car he was nearly in tears. He told me what had happened and that he thought for sure that I’d been involved. My parents lived at 79th Street, so we drove to their house to make sure they were safe, dropped the baby with them and drove back to Oaklawn to see how we could help. There was nothing we could do…the police, etc., had their hands full dealing with sightseers. We were at St. Mary’s Cemetary and I remember that the chain link fence on the west side was a solid wall where debris had been pushed through the mesh. Weeks later, we drove through the area and the devastation was incomprehensible.
Though the storm I dealt with in Midlothian was too far east to have been the same one that spawned the tornado, I’ve always felt a that there was a link between the two and was always thankful that the pickup corner for my husband was at Pulaski and not Cicero like it normally was when he rode with that particular colleague.
I always remember April 21st, it never passes without it my mind. I was 11, my Dad had just passed away at home from cancer. The doctor had gone and the undertaker was coming. My mom told my sister inlaw to take me into her bedroom because she didn’t think I should see my dad being taken out. As we waited in the bedroom I looked out the southwest facing window to watch my oldest brother closing our garage door. I saw him staring into the sky, and as I turned to look also, I saw the funnel cloud and sparks (which I now know were transformers blowing out). I suspect the tornado was at 95th and Southwest highway at the time, This was in what is now Burbank about 79th and Central. We all went to the basement, but my mom had been given a sedative by the Doctor so my brother took charge of me, Grandma and his wife. We waited downstairs for awhile, then we got a portable radio to check out the situation. I think, had the tornado not veered down Southwest highway, we would have been right in it’s path. That day has come to represent so many things to me; the end of thinking people you know never die, home is always safe, when you get out of the hospital it means you’re all better. The child way of thinking was ending for me. Everyone except my ex sister inlaw is gone now. I have in my adult life experienced an F4. It took away several buildings on our property, here in Arkansas, but even that didn’t jolt me as that day did. I cry when I think of that day – just like I was still 11.
God bless you, Donna.
It sounds like you did a great deal of growing that day, Donna. So much was happening in your life, and it must have been very difficult to wrap your mind around it, given you were only 11. Did you move to Arkansas as an adult, or did you move as a child?
Jim Welser says
God bless you Donna. Your words really resonate with me. I lost my father William Welser that night. I was 10. You just never recover.
Ann Murphy says
I was not yet 3 when the tornado hit. My mom was shopping at National Food store on 89th & Ridgeland , which became the Egg Store and now it is something different. She said that she remembered that the big windows of the store were actually bowing because of the high winds associated with the tornado. The manager of the store cleared everyone out, but my mom had walked there. A young man who worked there gave her a ride home. Knowing my mom, she made sure to get a rain check for any of the sales items. I remember that it was quite a piece of conversation, and because I was young when they said the “Big tornado” I thought they were saying “Big tomato” and couldn’t quite understand what all the fuss was about till I got older
Tim R says
I was 12 at the time, and my Boyscout troop went there and helped clean up. It was pretty exciting to go in the area and see all the damage that had been done.
don borrelli says
I was a senior at olchs in 1967 and still remember that day. I found this site today and found it to bring back so many memories of my adolescent years of oak lawn with photos of the roller rink and talk of the sherwood forest restaraunt, prince castles and the red barn, and the old bus barn next door.
I picked up my mother from work on that day at Auburn Iron Works across from Bacon Tank at 98th and Natoma at roughly 4.40pm and drove home to 101st and kenton via 95th street. I really didnt see anything of the tornado other than it being pitch black out and the complete driving rain that ensued along with it. As soon as the heavy t storm subsidied I got into the car and headed out to see how bad the storm was and to head out to Hickory Hills to make sure my brother and dad were ok. Once again I headed down 95th street westbound and just couldnt believe my eyes. I was at the same corner 15-20 minutes apart, one on the way home and one on the way back and i still cant believe how much had changed.
I too remember our graduation outside on the football field when the thunderstorm hit (mentioned above by Jean Sims). I still remember running from the stands in the downpour when Penny Coyne got her high heel stuck in the mud and she practically got trampled as students and parent alike rushed for the lunch room. On another note id like to say hello to Bill Polich an old friend i havent seen since those days who also posted above.
Andrea Clark says
I have been reading the accounts of the horrible day. I am actually looking for stories from some paticular people from that day. My boyfriends grandfather is Boyd K Jones. This man was a hero from that fateful day. He was the bus driver from Harvard that saved the lives of 32 children by getting them off the bus April 21, 1967. I would love to hear some stories from the children on that bus or family from children of that bus. My boyfriend is very proud of his grandfather and i am wanting to put something together for him in memory of this wonderful Heroic man. If you or you know someone who was a student on the bus that day i would really like to hear a recollection from that day or ANYTHING that anyone has to say about this man… please post on here and i will reply. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
i was 1 when it hit i did not witniss it but i am very sorry for all of your losses
Lisa Fletcher Maxwell says
I was 8 yrs. old at the time, and I will never ever forget what I saw. I lived with my parents and 4 brothers on Marion Ave. and you could look behind our house and see the Starlight Drive-Inn. It was very hot and humid, and my 2 brother and I were in the pool. My dad had been replacing the patio concrete blocks in the back when my mom ran out of the house yelling a tornado is coming. My parents grabbed all us kids and tossed us in the family Country Squire station wagon. We were head to my aunt Reba Hallays house, but ended up at uncle Doug Fletchers house. My dad had to pull over and it was at the Catapillar Equipment. at that time I could see the twister in motion, and it still frightens me this day on all the devastation and destruction. My cousin Donna Glover was in the Community Store, and was told to get to the garden section behind all the bagged stuff,,seeds and whatever. I used to roller skate at the rink and it got gone. My prayers will always be with the families that lost there loved ones and homes.
Diane Helander says
Every week, just as clockwork, we would head to the grocery store across from Oak Lawn High School [Red Lobster is located there now]. As we were about the leave my daughter needed her diaper changed, while my husband looked out the kitchen window he commented on how green the sky looked and that we had better hurry. As we headed up Southwest Highway, we could see power lines down, still arching, and as we approached 95th & SW Hwy, we saw a car imbedded in a tree, the grocery store completely gone, cars & buses on rooftops, hearing sirens from every which way. The only way we could go was to continue up SW Hwy, where we encountered debris all over streets, trees had fallen into houses. The bus station was gone. Half of Oak Lawn High school was gone. We were trapped within the confines of the tornado damage. We had to wind our way through streets, for 2 hours, trying to make sure our friends on 91st Street off Central were alright, but couldn’t get through. We finally got to 87th St. We couldn’t go back home, so we went to my parents house. My father didn’t believe what we had just been through until the following day, when he came out our way and saw for himself. Thank goodness for a dirty diaper, because we would have been in that store as always at 5:30. Our prayers & memories go to those that lost families, homes, etc. It’s something you cannot believe can happen until you see it for yourself, which I never hope I do, ever again.
I wasn’t born yet, but my cousin Christine Hinds was killed by that tornado at the Oak Lawn Roller Rink. I know her family well and she is missed very much everyday. I see her grave every once in a while. Sure wish I could of met her. RIP
I remember that dreadful day also. My family’s been in Oak Lawn since 1957 and we lived on 106th and Kenneth. I was out playing with my friends and our neighbor (Mrs. Carney) came out yelling for us to all get home as a tornado was coming. I remember the green sky and I also remember running home and literally punching my way thru the screen door pane of glass to get inside (still have the scar on my left hand) and my mom hustling my brothers and sister into the basement corner. We were all shaking and waiting for my dad to get home (he worked downtown). Still live in Oak Lawn off of SW Hwy and 52nd in one of the last houses spared by the tornado and have in my yard a piece of the ladder from the original Oak Lawn water tower which according to the original owner of the house was found in the yard after the storm. My garage is actually made up of different garage walls scrounged from the debris (no 2 walls are alike). I agree with those that posted earlier – don’t ignore mother nature’s warnings. My heart goes out to all who lost their lives and my thanks to all those who gave of themselves to assist everyone affected.
Larry Rauch says
I was a member of the Lansing FD at the time of the storm. We we called out just after the storm ended. I arrived at the fire station and along with 3 fellow volunteers got abored truck # 101, an old American LaFrance pumper with a two person cab and a step bumper on the back with my partner Bill Smith. With of course no cover or shelter of any kind and rode all the way to Oaklawn on the freeway at 80 MPH in a blinding rain. Upon arriving nearby we had to stop at a wrecked service station and add oil to the motor. I think it was running dry. It was still dark when we arrived and there was much confusion. Rescue units were everywhere, all searching for people, either injured or dead. When we were called out, we had no idea of what we would encounter. That’s the risk you take as a fireman. I loved it!
CJ Van Housen says
My family lived at 68th & Damen in 1967 so we were lucky not to be in storm’s path, but I was working in the Loop that day and remember looking southwest from our office building and seeing that eerie, greenish sky. Something nasty was heading our way, but none of us knew of the terror that was ripping through the Oak Lawn area.
Ron Janec says
Hi everyone. Some of you may not be aware of this, but there is also a Facebook group that has some great information on the Oaklawn tornado.
Bill Schrieffer says
Hi, Ron. Thanks for the information. How do I connect with the facebook group you are referring to?
Oak Lawn Tornado Facebook page here:
Bill S says
Thanks very much, Ron.
Ron Janec says
You are very welcome Bill. And thank you for posting the link RP.
Ron Janec says
45 years ago today, and it still seems like yesterday! My condolences to everyone who lost someone in this terrible storm.
Linda (Hunoway) Brown says
My dad was one of those who just happened to be at the intersection of 95th and Southwest Highway. His car was found in the football field of Oak Lawn High School.
I was 13 at the time, my brother was 9. We were shopping for my 8th grade graduation dress the night before and a new lawn mower. April 21, 1967 will always be in my heart. Not enough space to write all the things I remember about that day.
Patrick Horn says
I was almost 10 years old when the tornado hit Oak Lawn area. I remeber my mother picking my sister and I from gradeschool in Hickory Hills that afternoon. Normally we would have taken the bus home but she picked us up that day she said because the sky was so dark. She also explained that she almost stopped at the diner on the corner of Southwest Highway and 95th St. but because the skys were so dark she decided to pick us up from school. She would later say that she might have been in the resturant with her two friends had she stopped. When we got home we could see how the skys over Oaklawn were green and black and we heard weather reports on the radio. Weeks after the tornado we would visit close family friends in the Oak Lawn area and see homes that had been damaged or destroyed. My aunt lived 1 block south of Southwest Highway and McVicker. For years we could see traces of the tornado’s damage up and down the different streets and would be reminded how fortunate we were. My mother used to say to us to say a prayer for those less fortunate.
Jack Brennan says
I was one of about five people in the Beverly C.C. proshop/caddy shack when it was leveled by the tornado. I was 13, a caddy, filling in for my older brother as a club cleaner. I never saw it coming, only heard a terrible thunderstorm that turned the afternoon pitch black. Another pro shop worker named Eddie Staffan tackled me just before it hit, throwing both of us behind tall metal racks that were anchored in concrete and held members’ golf bags. They were about the only things left standing. I can still remember the cold, dusty gusts as they tore through the roof and walls. Yes, it sounded like a freight train. I still have a scar on my knuckle from where flying glass from the front window hit my right hand. We had to dig three (I think) people out from under a card table in the front office, where they had hidden themselves at the last minute. No one was seriously injured, although everyone was in total shock. My knuckle didn’t start bleeding for five or 10 minutes. I had no idea what had hit us. Standing in the club parking lot, another stunned survivor asked, “What the hell was that?” It was only then that I heard the word tornado.
Sarah Bordoshuk Kunka says
I was 14 years old and lived on Kenton in Hometown. I remember it well. I don’t remember seeing the tornado itself because my mom had us in a closet. I remember the green sky, and hail and wind. My dad had to stand in the window of course because dads can do that! My sister was in the OLCHS pool after school that day and arrived home from the late bus as the tornado was getting closer. Hometown had quite a bit of damage and my dad was out all night helping. I remember the Nation Guard on the corner. One of my parents friends walk over from Burbank to see if we were ok. Len, my husband lived just West of us on 51st. and 87th street. He left his friend Freddie’s house two doors down just as it was hitting the roller rink. He made it home ok and his mom pulled him in and they ran for the closet with the dog. I recently gave all the pictures I had to the Oak Lawn Library. They are still looking for pictures if you have them. They sent them back to me on a disc and I let them keep the originals.
Reading the post above really show me what happened. I was not aware of some of the events talked about. Thanks for sharing.
peggy schaeffer says
being one of 8 children, the only ones home ( 93rd & 52nd ave) that day were my dad myself (11yrs)and younger brother, I was watching tv in the front room, when we lost the electricty i ran to the front door and saw this green huge tornado I screamed to my day and he grabbed myself and brother into the closet. I didn’t know where he went. inside the closet I held my brother close as we heard smashing, crackling and broken glass and the house shook, the sound of a freight train, then it was all quiet,, as we came out of the closet my dad was there. The home across the street was flattened, the women down the block got killed as a tree fell on her in her garage, the worst part was not knowing where the rest of the family was, and wouldn’t let them the area. I lost 2 friends at the roller rink, finally each family member got home safely telling of their encounter, to this day it happened list yesterday and Im petrified of storms.
Sandra Schuster Heinemann says
I remember the 1967 tornado in Oak Lawn well. I was 13 at the time, an eigth grader at Simons Jr. High. I was reading and my mother came and said get up and come look at the sky and don’t you think it sounds likes freight train. I said no, it sounds like a plane. We looked outside and the sky was a weird green color and it was very still. Then it started to rain and howl, we were trying to get into a safe position when my mother said lets go to the neighbor’s house as we were good friends and they had a basement. So my mother, little sister, and I ran for their house as it was raining and large hail, maybe golf ball size came down. We made it to safety. After a short time, we went out to see what happened. Our area was fine, but as we looked up Austin Ave. towards 95th and Southwest Hwy we saw a fireball. My father was on a carpenter job and had my younger brother with him. They were on there way home and ran into the storm. My dad saw a roof being ripped off and an air conditioner go flying. I think it may have been on a fast food building. He said it was actually coming toward them and he veered down another street to get away. When he got close to home, he was stopped and told he could not travel further with the car. He told them, I have see if my family is alright. He ran quite a few blocks and was relieved to see we were fine. I went back with him to get the car and we saw a car on Austin Ave. Near 95th and Southwest Highway headed slightly off the road going in the wrong direction. We saw a man that had been impaled by a telephone pole. As we went further, we saw that Fairway Foods had been leveled, a corner of the highschool had been ripped off, a city bus on top of a building, there was a house near there with walls ripped off and a older woman had an injured arm and was wandering around in the home in shock. We wanted to help, but there were downed power lines. There were damaged cars everywhere. We stopped at one car to see if we could help, there was a young couple, but they were dead. There were some baby items in the back seat, but we did not see a baby. It was very horrific and so very sad. Whenever there is a really bad storm with tornado warnings, I am always quick to head to the basement. As I am watching news on the Oklahoma and Missouri tornadoes, I can’t help but remember the Oak Lawn tornado of 67 and the tragedies of that day.
Burt L says
I was one of the first responders with the Chicago Civil Defense Fire and Rescue Squad located at 1244 W Wells Street in Chicago. When we arrived there were many rescue personnel on the scene but very little organization as how to rescue trapped people, primarily at the grocery store. We also searched nearby houses to see if anyone was trapped. After only fifteen or so minutes, and due to the excess of rescue teams present, we were recalled to Chicago to aid in areas also hit by the tornado. It was daylight before we returned to our headquarters. Oak Lawn was a scene that I will never forget.
Recent news of the OK tornado brings it all back. I was 21, returning from my summer job at High-Lo foods, stopped about five cars behind me at the stoplight at 87th and Kedzie by Evergreen Park Cemetery. The sky turned dull green, then a sound unlike I ever heard. Tombstones from the cemetery began hitting the windows of my little chevy. I took cover down in the floor of the car. It was over in seconds. I lifted my head. The bus two car lengths in front of me was overturned. The house I was parked in front of was gone, the walls and roof taken away. All that was left was a TV and a sofa facing it. I tried to escape, but traffic was not moving. I sped down an alley, stopping just in time before hitting a sparking down electric wire. I was young and unscathed by the experience. But years later when I started telling the story to my husband, I started shaking and my teeth started chattering. Now it is some 45 years later, but the memory is still sharp. And you can bet when I hear the siren I take cover!
Linda (Kelliher) Rhodes says
I will never forget the sound of a train roaring down the track. I was looking out my window at the green sky. I had no fear, it came later. I heard my mother yelling at, “Tornado. Get in the basement!!” I felt some shame to see her clutching my youngest sister in one arm while holding her robe closed. Ma was naked underneath.
The roar of the train didn’t last very long. As the tornado passed, I could hear the tinkling of glass.We crawled out of the protection of a table in the basement and assessed the damage. It looked like a bomb hit our house and yard. Three oak trees, over one hundred years had been uprooted, the garage had been lifted up and set down. Oddly enough the rabbit cage was left intact.
We had been preparing for my brother Bob’s conformation. The conformation was postponed while the celebration party went on. As a family we did not let adversity stand in the way. That night one of my cousins took a walk just to get a closer look. The police nabbed the boy and brought him to the station. The ‘war zone’ had spread beyond my backyard.
Learning about the death of neighbors and classmates was a shock. Nature in this case a tornado has no favorites. God isn’t to blame. When I look back I acknowledge just how lucky I was.
Jill Ehlers (Lift) says
How sad… Christine was a classmate of my brothers. My mother went to the wake. For some strange reason, I went with her . ( I was four years younger then Christine) I will never forget walking into that funeral home with my mother.
Will Bischoff says
I remember I was 11 years old after the tornado hit, My father was a Burbank firefighter and I remember sitting in the car near the Oak Lawn roller rink while my dad and about 10 other firefighters were on top of the rubble, yelling for survivors and trying to administer first aid and free the trapped victims in the rubble. I remember I was scared, crying and Cold. It’s a tragedy I will never forget. My wife’s grandparents house was lifted off the foundation and the garage was just a concrete slab..they lived.
Kate (Kathy) Akin says
I was 17 years old when the tornado riped through town. It is amazing all of our family were unharmed that day. Mom was working at Oak Lawn Bank and after the bank manager locked the doors, they took all the employees and customers down to the basement. Dad was on his way home from the bank and was driving a ‘new’ used Rambler (salmon pink, I might add) with a push-button shift pad. Dad was still smoking in those days and as he started down the block on 51st, just north of Southwest Highway, he heard what sounded like a freight train bearing down on him and the sound of trees cracking open. He frantically tried to drive out of the tornado’s path and ended up pulling over and throwing himself down on the seat with his cigarette still in his mouth and burning his nose. I was at home with my sister, Barb, and brother, Fred, and our dog, Misty, frantically trying to get them all down to the crawl space. I managed to get my sister and brother into the crawl space and as I looked out my parents’ bedroom window, I clearly saw the funnel which looked to be coming straight for us. Dad came home dragging part of a tree beneath the Rambler. We found out mom was alright at the bank. I’ll never forget the presence of the National Guard which secured the perimeter of town. A guardsman was stationed at the end of each street along 87th. We lived on the last block of 51st near 87th and we took hot coffee and food down to the posted guardsman at the end of our block. Our neighbor, Micky Beauvais, was an LPN and assisted in the rescue efforts at the roller rink.
I live in Denver now but not long after I moved here, there were 5 funnel clouds hovering over downtown Denver late one work day. The attorney partner I worked with thought it an occasion to break out the scotch and stand at the window to marvel at the sight while I scurried down to the building’s parking garage. Any time there is a storm and the sky looks a little strange, maybe the light changes in an odd way, my memories of that day flood back.
Jeffrey Werner says
I just came from a historical review of the OL Tornado by the author Kevin Korst. As the Oak Lawn historian, he has done extensive research and compiled it in a book called: Images of America Oak Lawn Tornado of 1967. It was an amazing evening and I would recommend attending it when it comes to the Oak Lawn Library in March. Jeffrey Werner RunWithJesus@comcast.net
Linda McCurrie says
That day I will never forget. I worked at Howard Johnsons Restaurant at 87th & Cicero. That afternoon it was very hot.. One of the cooks came to work and said that there was a tornado watch. I noticed that the air was very still. I didn’t think too much about it..
The boss asked me to work that evening, so about five I sat at the counter and ate supper before starting another shift. Normally, I only worked days. I got through eating, and happened to look out the window and I saw the tornado coming. I yelled to everyone eating, that a tornado was coming. I ran into the kitchen and told them a tornado was coming. Everyone followed me down to the basement. The lights went out, and the boss watched it through the window. After a few minutes we went back upstairs into the restaurant and everyone ran out. A man came rushing in and said he was by the Oaklawn Roller Rink and all the walls were gone. He got a bad cut on his arm and I bandaged it for him. We left the restaurant and walked down Cicero and we couldn’t believe our eyes. The trailer park looked like someone had piled up sheet metal all in a pile..Nothing was left. The roller rink was gone. Even the toilets. The Clark gas station was hit bad.
The next day Howard Johnsons was open. It looked like a war zone. The National Guard was there and reporters from around the world. The owner from the Oaklawn Roller Rink was in and he was crying. He told me that they pulled kids out, with their skates still on.
I will never forget that awful day. I am terrified of bad storms ever since.
Mark A. says
I was 6 years old and at home at 88th/Sacramento in Evergreen park. I remember the sky becoming pea green with everything eerily still and quiet. Being 6 I wasn’t aware of what a tornado was let alone the meaning of tornado sirens but I remember my parents scurrying about and shooing us into the basement NW corner. I never saw my parents so afraid. As we sat with hands over our heads I heard what sounded like a freight train go by. The sound was awful; crunching, creaking, and moaning that gave me nightmares about tornadoes for the next ten years. After everything settled we went out to see a corner brick 2 story building 1/2 block north of us completely gone down to the foundation. Some houses across the street had no roofs and power lines were on the ground everywhere. We got lucky as the there was only a single 10 foot 2×6 sticking out the top of our roof like a toothpick.
Nancy (Keppler) Heitschmidt says
I was a student nurse at Christ Community Hospital on that day. We were done with classes and were all in the dorm behind the main hospital. We noticed the air was getting like a green fog and many of us went to an inner room to wait. When it lifted we heard the sirens starting. Within minutes there was a long line of ambulances outside the emergency room. We then called the hospital supervisor, told her we were junior students and she instructed us to get into uniform and come to the ER. What a night. They were bringing in kids from the roller rink, dirty with sand and still in their skates. It was incredible for a young woman of 20 to see and be a part of. We mainly went with staff to assist, calmed children and did what we could. It was about midnight when I went past the doors to the waiting rooms and was amazed to see the crowds, media lights and crying people. I was mainly, at that time, concerned for my parents in Michigan and worried they would be frantic. I finally got a phone out, called my mom to say I was ok…her response…’Why honey, did something happen’. To this day storms frighten me….perhaps not frighten… but I very much respect and am wary of them. Years later, just by chance, we moved to Belvidere, IL and ended up living across from Highland Hospital. They were severely damaged on that same day in a different F4 tornado. Weird huh?
Marty Cosentino says
I remember this day I lived at 4912 spring road . It was a hot humid day I got home from swimming around 5:15 pm . All the sudden sky turned black then the sirens and the sky turned an ugly green
My mother and I where looking out our kitchen window we could see the tornado it was heading our way only thing that stopped it was the star lite out door theatre in bounced off the screen and hit oak lawn high school and made its way down southwest hwy . On its way to the roller rink . After the storm the sun came out . My mother and I where hiding in the ditch in front of our house . What a terrible day . God bless
Maureen Cosentino says
Surprised to see this post. My last name is also Cosentino. I live South of 97thand Menard. My kids had come home for the park soaked from the rain. After the rain stopped I wouldn’t let them go back out because it was “funny” outside; dead still and usually you could hear birds after a rain. And then the sky turned green. I got the kids down to the basement. Outside of roof damage (tree), we were ok. My mother’s house in Hometown also had roof damage. We were most fortunately. My husband got to the house by going around Christ Hospital. My older sister was able to call around 2am. We were worried about my mother. About an hour later, she was able to get through. She had seen the news the night before. I asked where she was – which turned out to be in Peoria where she was attending a democratic convention. A neighbor and I were out the next day bringing coffee to the many fireman and others who were working throughout Oak Lawn. The Medinah Temple was being used as a temporary morgue. Unbelievabled damage.
Stan C says
I am writing the story 48 years to the day when the 1967 tornado struck Oak Lawn. I was a 7th grader at St Gerald’s and often rode my bike to school leaving it at a friend’s house (Marty Spicer) who lived across the street from the school. Marty’s Dad, Martin Spicer, was a top real-estate agent in Oak Lawn and the Spicers were family friendly to all people. On Friday I recall it was raining after school and called home to say I was staying at Marty’s until the weather let up. My Mom said OK and to try to get home for dinner around 6PM. Shortly after 5PM the rain was lightening up and decided it was time to go. It must have been close to 5:30 when I finally left for a short trip home to 89th & Central just a few blocks north of St. Gerald’s. It was calm almost dead silence and a block away at 92nd Central, the wind picked up with dark clouds and a greenish sky to the west. I picked up speed thinking another downpour was coming, but then heard a loud rumble like a freight train. Looking to the west, a huge funnel cloud appeared in the distance. As I approached 91st & Central, the funnel was approaching rapidly and seemed to be coming directly at me. The sky lit up with explosions and bright lights. At this time, the tornado was probably at Southwest Highway and 95th Street where Oak Lawn High School, a grocery store, and cars sitting at the stoplight were located. Many people were trapped unaware of the danger.
Around the same time, my Mom had called the Spicers to say a tornado was coming. Mrs. Spicer ran downstairs to find out I had just left and told my Mom this. You can imagine their thoughts. As I kept peddling and broke into prayer, the funnel was getting much closer. I couldn’t look at it anymore. The noise, explosions and wind were too much to bear.
Well the good Lord took care of me that day and finally reached our driveway where I saw my Dad standing outside obviously looking to see if I made it. I fell and raced with him to the crawl space. By this time the funnel was likely around Cicero Ave. devastating the OL roller rink. When I dropped down to the crawl space all I recall my Mom saying, Is Stanley here? I said Yes and asked where our dog was. I don’t know who was shaking the most, me, the folks, or the puppy.
We survived and missed the damage. Electricity was out and the only thing I recall is going outside later that night to walk the dog and thinking I heard a loud rumble again as I raced back inside the house. Also woke up several times that night dreaming the experience. I remember it snowed the next day. A day or two later, I went to see the damage at St. Gerald’s and the High School. When I showed up at the Spicers, they had already told friends I was goner (no cell phones or internet in those days). Fortunately the Spicer house was intact with minor damage, but 300 yards to the north, St. Gerald’s was cut in half.
This day will always serve as a reminder of not what could have happened, but how fortunate it is to go on realizing there a destiny to live out by God’s good grace. A good family, a wonderful wife and children, and a positive influence on the people you meet the rest of your life may be some reasons. Is that God’s plan? I don’t know, but hope to find out some day. Unfortunately I probably won’t be readily accessible to write about it.
Frank S. says
Fifty years will soon be upon us. Let me be among the first to mention that here and offer this revision: Looking SW from 73rd & St Louis that dark Fri’y aft’n, we could see very clearly the classic elephant-trunk funnel as it swept across S. Cicero Ave. into Hometown. The lime-green sky under the wall cloud to the W. had caught our attention and it took no more than a cursory scan of the horizon to yield what it was about. When the approaching twister became partially obscured by houses on the S. side of 73rd, my reaction was to run towards it…to get a better view across the railroad yard…much to the consternation of my friend Greg’s mom, who was yelling frantically for us to get into the house. I could see it was headed directly for my Aunt’s, to our S. along 87th St, and would’ve almost certainly struck there (and my old neighborhood) if not for a fortuitous right turn at the last moment into St Mary’s Cemetery. From inside the house, we watched fascinated as the terrible storm, now only 1-1/2 miles distant, roped out and momentarily dissipated right there in front of our eyes. As did many, I too knew someone lost in the Roller Rink, a kid by the name of David Nork, who was 10 years old at the time, rest in peace. His family lived directly across the alley from ours along S. St Louis Ave. I was 15 then and to say it impacted my life would be an understatement. Which is why I take this opportunity to write this now…
robert busch says
April 21, 1967 began like any other day, I worked at Warrens Sod Nursery until noon. Then I came home and got the mail. There it was my letter of acceptance to Chicago Teachers College. That letter ended the worst two years of my twenty year old life. I had been kicked out of one school, flunked the physical for ROTC and went to Bogan Jr. College at night for over a year. All that while working thirty hours a week at the sod farm. Every day was a swirl of work study school without any time for a social life the days dragged by slowly while the weeks went fast. That day was also memorable because I was on foot; my car was at Wally’s garage because of an electrical problem. Things were looking up that Friday for sure, one more night of class and then Spring Break an entire week of no school, and finally a clear road to my college degree. Little did I realize how close disaster was as I walked along 107thstreet to Roberts Road to catch the bus?
I was at peace with the world as I strolled the half mile to catch the three o’clock bus. It was a very soft day for April, warm and humid; I did not even wear a jacket. Large white fluffy clouds drifted by when I got to the bus stop. Who could ever guess how people’s lives would be changed by those clouds in less than two hours. The suburban bus let me off at 95th and Pulaski where I waited for the CTA bus to take me to school at 79th street. While waiting for that bus I noticed the clouds were getting thicker, a neighbor saw me standing there. Class started a t 4pm, I got to Bogan with about fifteen minutes to spare.
I was in humanities class room 201 when the sky turned black. The windows began to shake when unknown bits hit them. I grabbed the professor and pulled him to the floor. Then it all stopped. We saw no funnel cloud but the school yard was full of debris. I knew something had happened but didn’t know what it was. Quickly Pulaski Road became one endless siren as waves of emergency vehicles streamed past. The rest of classes were cancelled so I started home.
The CTA bus took fifteen minutes to go three blocks so I got off the bus and started walking home. The sidewalk was full of insulation and roof shingles, by then I knew there had been a tornado. When I reached 87th street I saw damage to the St.Mary Cemetery fence. Turning down the Southwest Highway I thought my seven mile walk home would take about two hours I never got home that night.
The first real damage I saw was the Hometown Municipal building and a House next door. At that point I looked West and could see all the way to Cicero Ave, the trailer park was gone so was the roller rink. From there to Cicero only the ambulances and junk lying all over interrupted my journey.
At Cicero the road was blocked with barricades but nobody stopped me as I walked by. Another guy walked with me for a couple of blocks when we got to his street he yelled “Oh God” and began running down the street. There was some damage visible from the Southwest Highway as I neared Central Ave, then I saw St Gerald’s School, it looked like a giant foot had smashed flat a cardboard box the ends were still there but the middle was gone. From there on the real horror began.
It is one thing to look at pictures of a disaster, being there in person is quite a different matter. The athletic field of Oak Lawn high school was full of mangled cars, grotesque shapes of twisted metal and broken glass. One car had been crushed against the steel girder that held up the foot bridge over the road both the car and steel girder had the paint blasted down to bare metal. The sight of that corner will be with me forever.
It had been less than three hours since I rode past 95th and the Southwest Highway on the bus going to school. The motel, the gas station, and the William Tell Restaurant were obliterated. The high school wall was gone and the Fairway Supermarket was a three foot high pile. About this time I began to feel guilty about not stopping to help along the road, so I went to the pile and saw Mr. Sobut who owned the store. He was the father of one of my best friends and I knew him for years. He was not physically injured but even a dummy like me could tell he was in sort of a shocked daze. He told me he saw a shopping cart go by the window so he went out to get it, then the roof went and he dove under the stacked carts as the store collapsed. In late November 1941 his enlistment was up so he left the navy, his ship was the Arizona now he had escaped death twice. I stayed on that pile all night helping where I could ,and keeping an eye on Mr.Sobut.Twice flashbulbs caught me on the pile. I saw heavy equipment begin to finish what nature started, ate Salvation Army donuts, and watched the National Guard deploy. All the while chaos was erupting at home. Nobody had heard from me since I left home, the neighbor who saw me waiting for the bus Told my mother, my brother and friends set out to find me but nobody was able to get into Oak Lawn. Just as dawn broke I was thirsty, so I climbed the pile to get a can of beer that survived the night. I slipped and a nail went about an inch into my knee. That ended my adventure.
I went on to finish college and taught in the Chicago Public Schools for forty two years. Almost every day I drove down the Southwest Highway on the way to school. Every time I catch a red light at that corner it comes back. In every place I lived and in and every school where I taught the route to the basement was chore one. Every year on tornado drill day me and my students didn’t go into the hallway, get down on the floor so they could kiss their ass goodbye .we went underground
Palos Park .
Beth Morris Christian says
I remember that day completely. I was 8 years old and went to my friend Karen Johnson house after school (We went to Covington School). My mom sent my brother up to Kneize
corner store to get a gallon of milk he fell off his bike from the wind on his way home. Karen and her brother Johnny walked me home, it was raining hard. We got to my back yard and my mom yelled for all of us to get in the house now. She nocked the umbrella out of Johnny’s hand and threw us all down in the basement and covered us with mattress. We all screamed, it was the worst sound you could ever imagine. I remember coming up the stairs when it stopped and seeing the sky from the kitchen and my brothers bedroom. My mom said don’t touch anything, electricity lines were down and the smell of gas. Karen and Johnny’s mother came running crying to find them. We were all safe except our house on 54th Ave. The neighbors tree was torn out by the roots. My Dad was stuck on 87th and central with all the other men running to their houses. Mom made us sit wrapped in blankets so we wouldn’t get hurt. Later that night family from Palos got thru and took my brother and I to their house. My Dad finally found us and I remember him crying and holding us tight. We walked past the high school. I remember seeing people lying down with cuts and crying, cars and building blown down. It looked like a war happened. The next couple of weeks we went back to Covington school and we had new students from St. Gerald’s attending. There school was gone, so we shared
our school with them. I remember all the men working hard to clean up the neighborhoods for months. Oak Lawn was never the same after that day, we became stronger and resilient. God Bless.
Phillip Lach says
Since it is the 50th Anniversary of the Oak Lawn, Illinois tornado, I have been recalling my own experience as a little kid and family’s reaction to this tragic event. Mine was like so many that day and fifty years later, the memories remain vivid and clear to me.
My paternal grandmother, Antoinette Lach, was a resident of a nursing home called Oak Lawn Geriatric located at the North East corner of 95th and Southwest Highway.She had just been moved there from another facility because she had highly advanced Alzheimer’s disease and other life threatening issues which could only be addressed there.
On Saturday morning, April 22nd, after it was deemed safe to do so, I began walking the National Guard secured streets in the grayness of that morning with my father. We walked impatiently as would not know what we would find upon our arrival at that intersection. Although many disturbing pictures exist recalling April 21st and the lives that were changed forever by that pea-green sky, my own memories recorded the following day’s events just as clearly.
My experience at the half-leveled Oak Lawn Geriatric Nursing Facility was deeply profound, still haunting me after all this time. Much of the top of the building and one of the sides had become part of the debris being cleared on 95th Street. However, the main corridor remained in-tact. As we entered what was left of the building, it was just tragically eerie. The residents of the facility, many of whom didn’t know where they were because of their own illness, were lined up in the remaining available wheel chairs on both sides of the corridor. It was extremely dark with a dank and standing water filled the hallway. There were not enough blankets to keep everyone warm or dry. A National Guard soldier was carrying a very dim already overused flashlight to bring in an occasional army surplus blanket to the residents who needed them most severely.
I looked in the darkness to see someone who might know or who might actually be my grandmother. The terrible moaning and sounds of confusion from already confused older adults was quite disturbing but we had to persevere to locate whom we came to find. As we looked, one elderly man grabbed my jacket and would not let it go. “Take me with you”, he said, but I could only stare at him and nod as I began to pull away from him. Another older lady in wheel chair, clearly not knowing where she was, asked me if she could take me for candy and ice cream. I nodded at her too.
Finally, in the darkness and cold of that morning, we found my grandmother-alive and clearly less concerned than we were about her being there. She was quiet,confused, almost stone faced, as I grabbed her wheel chair and began to push it down the corridor and out of an opening that used to be a door.
We crossed 95th Street with the help of a police officer and with his assistance, and my father’s we pushed her in the chair for many many blocks before the Guard would allow our car through the barricaded residential streets and eventually we all returned to my boyhood home on Mayfield Avenue
Among the many things I saw that day, as so many did, is that life really is fragile and in just a short moment it can forever be altered. Even as a little kid, I knew before many other kids did, that even the most brief moments among friends should be savored. I have carried that mantra with me throughout my life, imparting it to others wherever possible. Peace.
Scott Sodaro says
I was 10 years old and my father was an Oak Lawn Police Officer, home on his day off. We lived at the corner of Kimball Pl. and 55th Ave. Both of my parents were in the kitchen while I was watching cartoons in the living room. The kitchen had windows which faced south and east. All of a sudden, the power went out. Since a storm front was moving through, I really didn’t think anything of it. The next thing I knew, my dad was yelling to go down into the basement. My sister and I ran down the stairs and hid beneath a mattress that was there. I remember being scared. Fortunately, our house was not touched. Even though it was my dad’s day off, he went in to work right away. He was a camera buff, so he took a bunch of photos as he drove around town in his police car. We still have the slides.
Martin aka LanguageMan1 on GasBuddy and elsewhere. says
I sent some replies to others already, just using the name Martin alone, thought I’d write more later as I don’t have the time right now. I was eight at the time, it was a wicked sight watching it in the distance and coming for us all. Wow! Haven’t forgotten it, but I haven’t forgotten the time of my birth either as I do remember THAT as well and all the diaper changes and breastfeeding and EVERYTHING else since as well as before my birth, especially wanting to go back to sleep and the first few moments of bliss of my life as a human. I didn’t experience the worst of it, as it wasn’t a direct hit for us at 82nd and Winchester Avenue in Chicago proper, but it was certainly close, downed branches and limbs, various things hitting the roof, noises I’d never heard before, the sky going from cloudy and still some light to almost pitch black. I’ve been through worse in the subsequent years though.
I lived on Melvina and I remember that garbage can in the tree. It was on 96th Street across from the house that was demolished in the tornado at 96th and Melvina.
Susan Klarich says
I do not remember the tornado as I was only 22 months old. But my entire life my mother told me this story. We lived on Cicero Avenue and my mother had heard there was a tornado in the area. She grabbed the baby (me) and went down into the basement. She could hear the tornado which sounded like a freight train going down the middle of the street. I think we had no damage to our house because she never talked about anything like that. Maps of the tornado’s path show it definately did go down the middle of Cicero Av. We moved from Chicago in 1968.