My head swiveled to the left after a sixth grader behind me yelled, "Tornado! There's a tornado!" As a first grader, that black ominous long snaky thing tearing up the ground, still several miles away, terrified, yet fascinated me and I was rooted to my seat. But not for long. Our pale-faced bus driver went into immediate action, stopping the bus at the next bus stop and pulling children out of their seats, urging them to quickly exit the bus into the waiting arms of a mother who had come for her children. We ran for her house, fighting the wind and rain that began to pelt us, stinging our heads and legs, and diving into her basement. I remember, as I sat there on the dusty basement floor with all the other children, while the two adults peeked out of her windows from time to time, I prayed "God save us." The Lord's listened to a terrified little girl's prayers, he put down his hand of protection and the tornado, when it was within a mile of our bus, turned south and lifted. (1966).
That was a close call. There have been other close calls as we live in Tornado Alley, a section of the midwest known for rip snortin' bad weather in the spring. In 1957, there was a particularly bad one remembered by citizens who lived here then which wiped out a large portion of south Kansas City in an area known as Ruskin Heights, a newly built suburb for returning veterans and their families. I wasn't born yet, yet many years later, I would meet a woman who had lived through it via a homeschool magazine.
Katherine Trauger remembers that day vividly and writes about it on her blog, giving advice to parents as how to prepare for the event -- what to do when the siren blows and what not to do.
Ruskin Heights has been rebuilt. In fact, you wouldn't even know the area had been devastated by such a terrible calamity today, but there is a memorial on the main road which reminds us of that day as we drive by.
Ruskin Heights Tornado Memorial
In perpetual memory of those residents of Ruskin Heights who, having lost even the most precious of life's blessings in the tragedy that struck this community May 20, 1957, found the will and spiritual strength to here build anew. This memorial is dedicated to those who lost their lives that night and, in so doing, gave to this community the high resolve to perpetuate that which they helped to build. Dedicated May 18, 1958.