From skies that were blue and cloud-bare,
…The heat in the shop of the day
Forged anvil so white and so fair
…It marked the eleventh of May.
It stormed after dark on that night;
…The skies poured forth buckets of rain.
The flood made a driver’s face tight,
…Since streets in flat Lubbock don’t drain.
Away from their home for a meal,
…A pair set their sails to return.
The driving was almost by feel;
…The storm made each block a concern.
If only the couple had known,
…Had seen what was now on the way,
They might have felt fear to the bone
…On this, the eleventh of May.
At Uni and 4th they turned right.
…There football was played and men’s breath
Was held or was yelled – not this night!
…No games but of life and of death.
Two blocks was their street, then a left
…And there the dark terror began.
For now was the start of the theft
…Of things, and the short lives of man.
Four blocks was their drive, up ahead
…Sky lit up by lightning was green.
“Hail,” muttered the driver with dread.
…Ne’er seen was a sky quite as mean.
The fireworks weren’t nearing their end,
…Instead, they were hitting their stride.
The trees were now whipped by the wind;
…The terror was growing and wide.
And up in the lines of the park,
…Once nestled at peace with the trees,
The fury that now filled the dark,
…Made trees and the lines enemies.
The sparks of the war were like spray
…That showered green, yellow, and blue
And fell this eleventh of May
…For eyes that were shocked by the view.
The pair parked their car in their drive
…In front of their house near the street,
And marveled that they were alive.
…Far worse they were going to meet.
The moment the motor was killed,
…The wind moved the car like a swing
A ride that once might have them thrilled.
…Not now though, when terror was king.
Then, sudden as it had begun,
…The wind died; they flung ope’ the doors
And to their small house made a run.
…Then back came the wind with its roars.
They opened the door of their house
…And ringing was phone ‘cross the den.
‘Twas mom of the man’s youthful spouse –
…“We made it”; assuring the kin.
The call and concern was the rain
…For neither knew whirling o’erhead,
Like scythes that swing through the ripe grain,
…A monster cut swath with its tread.
The kitchen was narrow and small,
…And curtain was not hanging down.
It pointed to opposite wall
…Which rain blown was trying to drown.
The house, all of sudden, went black,
…And noise was the sense in light’s place.
The raging wind made its attack;
…The pair made an effort to brace.
A banging took place with the roar
…And turmoil was filling the mind
As though there were armies at war
…Before, to the side, and behind.
The pair, though, had now grown aware
…The monster, without any haste,
Was marching away with a glare
…Like Sherman to lay further waste.
The winds were now dying away;
…A peace had been made for the few.
The couple, no longer the prey,
…Reflected on what they now knew:
The calm that’s before any harm
…(When none knows that trouble will burst);
The calm in the midst of the storm,
…And calm that comes after the worst.
Like fawns full of fear and twice shy,
…They opened and peeped out their door
Their neighbors, too, came out to spy,
…To see the wounds grievous and sore.
No matter where eyes looked – debris:
…The park was now missing its court,
Blown tin and torn branches, a tree
…That leaned on their car for support.
The water was filling the street
…And silence was filling the air,
Except when the neighbors might speak
…In shock o’er the black night’s nightmare.
Then shuffle-ing up from the east
…A man who was dazed and distressed,
With eyes that were wide from the beast
…And what it had done as a guest.
His words seemed to them to be mad
…In giving news he had to share.
He said in wild tones that were sad,
…“It’s gone; it’s all gone over there.”
They knew then how great was the gale,
…How near was the angel of death
That carries men far past the veil
…Where no man will ever draw breath.
An F-5 tornado had struck;
…They’d run from the car in its eye.
Because of their God or of luck,
…This pair on this night did not die.
But twenty and six had not matched
…The fortune they had on that day –
Killed by what the devil had hatched
…Upon the eleventh of May.
stanza 5 – University and 4th St., where Texas Tech’s football stadium is.
Some of the huge light poles were snapped by the tornado.
stanza 9 – All the trees in the city park that was catty-corner to our
block and house were shattered and we could see what was left of
downtown lights for the first time. The big bank building below,
which we could see from our house for the first time, had many
windows blown out.
This telephone pole that was shattered and left hanging by its
wires was on 6th St, our street, and we walked under it that
night as we walked and hitchhiked our way across town to get
back to relatives. It took an hour and a half, a trip that normally
takes 10 minutes and they didn’t know if we were dead or alive.
Two blocks from our house, everything was flat, and destruction
was all around us. The picture below is of a huge store that sold
furnishings for homes, about 6 blocks from our house. I walked
there the next day and helped a store employee pick through the
rubble, trying to salvage a few things.
The map below is from a study of the Lubbock tornado(s) path
done by Fujita whose name is now attached to the Fujita scale
that measures the intensity of a tornado. We lived just a little
below where the tornado looped at the bottom left. The 3 is
where Tech stadium is.
The pictures are mostly by the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal and other Lubbock media.
© Dennis Lange and thebardonthehill.wordpress.com, 2016.