An uneasiness nagged at me as I checked over proofs for the next day’s paper. It was Wednesday, April 3, 1974 about 4 o’clock on a gray afternoon. More than 100 tornadoes had been sighted to the southwest. We had had such warnings before the twisters had always missed Xenia, Ohio.
Suddenly the radio crackled: “Tornado! Southwest of town, expected in six minutes.” I leapt from desk and hurried out into our office which faces the main downtown street. Police shouted “Take Cover” through bullhorns. Already white faced shoppers and business people were streaming into our new annex building for the protection of its steel beam and thick concrete construction.
suddenly an ominous green darkened the street. A rumbling roar like a thousand freight trains crossing the ceiling filled the building with a grinding thunder. Our street doors flew open, I rushed to close them and found myself looking up into a black k swirling sea of debris and giant tress. I fought my way back and threw myself down on the stairs among the other praying and sobbing people.
Then an eerie stillness filled the air. The monster had passed. My family and home were two miles away. I ran to my convertible, its windows sucked out, I sat in broken glass and drove down the street. There were no more streets , just mountains of debris and dazed and confused people wandering around. After making sure that my family was okay, I returned to the newspaper office.
The tornado had bulldozed a seven mile path half a mile wide right through Xenia, Ohio. 33 men, women, and children were dead. Almost half of Xenia’s buildings were destroyed. Nearly 10,000 people were homeless. Six of nine schools were smashed, nine churches, and 180 stores and businesses were destroyed.
In the coming months the city would pull together and begin to rebuild houses, businesses, churches, schools, and lives. One afternoon, seven months later I walked downtown and remembered the houses that owners had spray painted with the words “Oh God, why us?” and “Only God knows.” And I remember what Dick Pope a minister had said at an Easter celebration just eleven days after the tornado. “For the first time people are really going to understand what resurrection is about. You have to realize that Christ was even more effective after the resurrection than before. And this storm can be a turning point for this town. The Christian faith does not promise that we will not have suffering, but it does create the character in us that can face it and know how to use it.”
. Whether it is a natural disaster like a tornado, or a health disaster like cancer, whether it is relationship disasters like a broken marriage, whatever the disaster is...God is there to see us throught. 2 Corinthians tells us that God is the God of all comfort. That he has the power and the willingness to see us through all the disasters that life may bring us.
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