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Lisa Irene (Pagett) Hale

Hello Mr. Ramby, my name is Lisa I. (Pagett) Hale. I live in Xenia and have all my life. On this day 25 years ago, a few minutes from now, the people's lives of this small town were forever changed.
Our City has since been re-born. All the aesthetic scars have been healed by the hard work and determination of us all. But there are emotional scars which will last forever, especially on days like today when we remember.
I was ten years old, the same age as my oldest daughter, Clarissa Irene. I had a music lesson at the Band Box, a music store located downtown Xenia. It was actually a very pretty day as I recall. The sun was shining and all was well. My mother Judy and my little brother Keith and I drove to my Aunt and Uncle's house, Linda and Curtis Reck, who lived on Wyoming drive in Arrowhead. We stopped there briefly, and headed to Moore's IGA grocery located just across the road from Arrowhead on 2nd Street.
As young children will do, I stayed up in the front of the store inspecting the bubble gum machines. I saw my Uncle Curtis come in, looking like something was wrong and he told me I need to find my mother. He went ahead to find her and told her something and immediately left. A minute or so later, an announcement was made to go to the back of the store and take cover, a tornado was coming. I remember looking out the large front windows of the grocery to see a huge black cloud that went from the sky to the ground that had strange birds flying around it. Just the site made even a young child know it couldn't be a good thing. Of course, as it drew closer, you could see they weren't really birds, but wood and walls and who knows what else.
Many children were yelling for their "Mom" and many mothers were yelling for their children. I found my mother and brother when the electricity went out. We weren't sure what to do, when an elderly lady took my mother and said, "bring your children here in this aisle, if things land on us, at least it will be soft. Now many years later its rather humorous that she chose the toilet paper and personal items aisle.
The pressure was heavy. People were crying and children were screaming and the noise was deafening, like a giant airplane right overhead. I remember the cold feeling of the tile floor on the side of my face and wondering if we would be alright. The grocery made it through surprisingly well when you consider what lay just across the way. We couldn't get out of the grocery for a few minutes, and when we did the parking lot was strewn with debris. We got in the car and tried to drive where we just were minutes before to Wyoming Drive. What we saw has never left me since. Everything was gone. There were people walking in the street, but no one said a word. It was a deafening, numbing silence. Your mind could not accept what you were seeing. It couldn't be - but it was.
My Aunt and Uncle were alright, their home was damaged, but not completely gone as many of their neighbors. My mother and brother and I headed home not knowing how bad damage was on other parts of town and knew my father Hugh would be coming home from work in Centerville to find us. We lived just outside town on Hawkins School House Road and thank heaven there was no damage there.
My parents left my brother and I with a neighbor Iva Baughn and went in search of my Dad's mom, the best Grandma in the world, Clara Irene Pagett. Her car wasn't at her house on North West Street, so we assumed she was still at work. She worked at the American Cancer Society which was located at Kennedy Korners, behind Majors back past Western Auto next to the UVS store.
Mom and Dad couldn't get across town and had to drive all the way around through Cedarville and swung around to the Southern part of town. They managed to make it to the old Blue Moon Dance Hall on Route 42 South. They had to park there and walk into town. When they arrived at what was Kennedy Korners, there was nothing left but rubble. They searched and searched and finally found her car, but couldn't find her. They checked her house again and knew the only place she could be was where they had already looked, at work. They went back and as if guided, my father went to the exact spot where he found his mother beneath the debris. She had been killed.
At first I had complete rage. I would not accept her death. I didn't understand how God would take such a wonderful person nor did I understand why it had to happen to our town. Grandma and I went to church every single Sunday together, just the two of us, to the little church in the country where our family had gone for many years, Eleazer United Methodist. It's a place I could never return to.
The rage is gone, but the memories are not. I know the feel in the air when tornadoes are near. I know the greenish tint to the sky. But if I had to choose one thing the whole incident left me with, its that life is fleeting. Just when you think all is well, it can change in the blink of an eye.
Thank you for your site which shows a little bit about what our town went through, and thank you for letting me share my story.
Lisa Irene (Pagett) Hale
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