After writing about the worst winter ever, I began to look into other severe weather that made a big impact on a lot of lives, and might possibly have had an impact on my own family. I came across a tornado on this day, March 18, 1925 that was and still is the deadliest tornado in history. This tornado touched down at 1:00pm near Ellington, Missouri, and over the next 3 1/2 hours it tore across 3 states and 219 miles, finally ending up in Outsville, Indiana at 4:30 pm, where it hit one house and then dissipated. A tornado traveling this distance is virtually unheard of, but as we all know from this even…not impossible. This tornado was an F5 on the Fujita Scale. In all, the Tri-State Tornado, as it has since been called, hit more that 19 communities in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, while making an almost straight path across the 3 states.
I don’t know if any of the 695 people who perished in the most deadly tornado in history, were related to me or not, but in studying my family history, I can say the I had family in those areas. In all likelihood, one or more of them were related, and when I think of the horror of their last moments, whether they were related or not…well, it is beyond horrible. In Missouri, 13 people lost their lives. In Illinois, 541 people lost their lives, with 234 in Murphysboro alone, which is a record for a single community, and there were 33 deaths at the De Soto school, which was a record for such a storm, and with only bombs and explosions taking higher school tolls. In Indiana 76 people lost their lives. The numbers are not exact. Some accounts say 630 and others say 689, while still others say 695. I find that in itself sad. It is always sad when lives lost go unaccounted for. In all, there were 2,027 injuries and 15,000 homes destroyed. I have been looking over the victims lists, and some of the last names are familiar to me, but I can’t say that these people were or were not related to me. Also, the lists that I found, were not complete lists. It may take a bit of research to know for sure.
It doesn’t really matter whether I am related to any of the victims or not, the reality of this kind of devastation is beyond horrible. Of the 19+ communities, 5 were virtually destroyed along with more than 85 farms. I did find out that at the time of the Tri-State Tornado, my great great grandmother was living just 36 miles north of its path. One of the names might have been a cousin or nephew. Even knowing there is a possibility makes me sad. It is very hard to think about the family members of the victims who are left behind.
Children are like an unopened book. You don’t know what their lives will hold until they live them. You just know that there is so much promise…so much possibility. When they are little you look at them and you can see their whole life laying out in front of them, to do with as they choose. They can go anywhere and be anything they want to, if they put their mind to it.
Kids always seem to have a fascination with sunglasses, and every time I see a child in sunglasses, it reminds me of that song that goes like this, “the future’s so bright, I have to wear shades…” Though the child isn’t even thinking about the future, it makes me realize that at least for that moment in time, their future is bright. Their lives could, and probably will take some twists and turns along the way that we may not particularly like, but most kids turn out alright in the end.
Looking at that child in the sunglasses, trying to get them on right and straight, but ending up with them on upside down instead, you realize that they have so much to learn, and you have so much to teach them. It is a moment that can be very overwhelming. Sometimes, you wish they did come with an instruction manual, but as you travel the road from babyhood to toddler to adolescent to teenager to adult, while the trials are there, you find that you wouldn’t miss this trip for anything. Watching them grow into wonderful personalities that are often very different our own, or even anything we could imagine, is truly amazing.
Watching them go through the struggles of growing up, the mistakes, the heartbreaks, the hurts and pains…well, is not quite so much fun. They have to make their own way, and at first they aren’t very good at some of the things they try, but you have to let them try. You have to let them make their own choices and decisions about things like sports, and other school activities so they can begin to learn how to make those choices and many others.
It may not be fun to watch them go from the child who looks to you to handle their whole world, to the adult over whom you no longer have any true control or say in their world. You want to protect them from all the mistakes they are sure to make, but you can’t. You can only be there when they fall, to pick up the pieces and stand then back up on their feet and send them off to try again…and hopefully to succeed…and to find that the future’s so bright…