Carrie Smith : Tornado Oral History

Title

Carrie Smith : Tornado Oral History

Narrative

Submitted: June 28, 2005
Carrie Smith
Delaware, Ohio

My name is Carrie Smith, and I live in Delaware, Ohio. But on May 31st, 1985, my name was Carrie Miller, and I lived in Mesopotamia, located in Trumbull County, Ohio. I was eleven years old, and had just finished the sixth grade.

I will never, ever forget the day the tornados hit. A year or so before, my brother Brian (two years younger than me) had developed a morbid fascination with - and fear of - tornadoes. He worried about tornadoes the way other little kids worried about bullies at school, or a bad grade on a report card. He was obsessed with the subject. Every day he would ask me and our parents and anyone else that remotely resembled an authority figure: “Do you PROMISE there’s not going to be a tornado today?”

He saw tornadoes everywhere. Every oddly-shaped cloud that crossed the sky, every thunderstorm, every tornado drill at school (we had several that May in 1985) – he was convinced these were all harbingers of tornado doom. We spent an awful lot of time re-assuring him on the subject, back in those days.

May 31st, 1985 arrived warm and glorious. It was a Friday – the first day of summer vacation - and as a special treat (or maybe as a bribe to keep us from harassing her to death on our first day home), Mom took us into Middlefield to get a bunch of library books. During the trip to the library, my brother of course took the opportunity to ask his standard question: “Do you PROMISE there’s not going to be a tornado today?” We replied in the negative and promptly dismissed the subject once we arrived at the library. I came home with a tall stack of books, and luxuriated in burying myself in my room, determined to enjoy the school vacation and pleasure-read the day away.

It wasn’t long before my reading was disturbed by a loud, rhythmic sound. It sounded as if my brother was indulging in one of his destructive habits with the neighbor kids again. In fact, it sounded as if all nine of the neighbor children and my brother were outside with hammers, banging on the hood of our pickup truck, parked out in the driveway.

I looked out the window, but the neighbors were nowhere to be seen. My brother, however, was wandering around the yard, picking up something that gleamed on the ground. The light was odd – yellow and green and black and blue all at once – and my curiosity got the better of me. I gave up my book and went outside to investigate.

The ground was littered with hailstones the size of quarters. We were fascinated. Heedless of the hail that continued to fall, striking skulls and backsides sharply, Brian and I wandered around, competing to see who could find the biggest hailstones. Meandering toward the front of the house, we gained a clear view of a large, purplish-greenish-greyish cloud that looked as if it were just across State Route 534, instead of high in the sky.

“Look, Brian” I teased. “Doesn’t that cloud look like a tornado?”

“Nah,” he said disparagingly, assuming (and rightly so) that his older sister was merely trying to torment him.

It was then that we heard the shrieking and running. Turning around, we saw most of our next-door neighbors (who also went by the surname Miller) running pell-mell into the yard. “It’s a tornado!” yelled. “Get into the root cellar!” The neighbors had no basement to their house, and so had come running over to us.

In amazement, Brian and I followed the neighbor children into the house. Their parents were away for the day, and Mom was baby-sitting their youngest child, less than a year old (the other children were considered old enough to fend for themselves for an afternoon.) Mom, having heard the commotion, wasted no time hustling all of us into the basement, where we automatically dropped into tucked-head positions at various points around the damp field-stone walls. The neighbor baby fussed a bit, but aside from that you could hear every breath that each of the twelve of us drew, huddled in fear and disbelief.

After what seemed like an eternity, Mom let us go upstairs. Peeking out the windows, we saw no sign of the twister that had touched down just across the road. The sun was shining again and the birds were singing. No damage appeared to have been done to our property or the neighbors’.

We spent the rest of that summer building sheds and barns and roofs and painting sheds and barns for people who were not as fortunate as us and had lost those things. Some people had lost everything; there were clothing drives and food drives and that year I think there was a fund-raiser at the annual Mespo Ox Roast.

But after that May 31st, my brother never again asked, “Do you PROMISE there’s not going to be a tornado today?”

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