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Lori J. Hellmund

Dear Homer, Thanks so much for putting up this wonderful site so we never forget
I was not a "direct" victim of the monster that destroyed Xenia on April 3, 1974, but I guess you could say that my innocence died a little that day. I think there is always a moment when you are a child when you realize that your parents can't protect you from everything and that was the day I learned that. That Wednesday was a really unusual day weather-wise. I was in the sixth grade and I can remember that during our recess times the sky would vary from being black and threatening to bright and sunny. It was also very windy. I also remember that when I got into the car to go home at 2:30, my mother told me that we were going to have some "bad storms".
I live in Kettering, which had been hit by an F-1 tornado when I was 6 years old, so I wasn't entirely unfamiliar with them. However, in 1974 we weren't used to having too many tornado warnings. WHIO-TV had a brand new weather radar that they had been promoting for some time. I'm sure that anyone who lived around here will remember that this radar was nothing like the ones we are used to seeing now. There were no fancy colors or graphic; it was simply a black and white radar screen with the city names typed in. At a little after 4:00 pm my father came home from work. ( Those were the good old days when most of the dads got home from work at the same time and you could plan to have dinner together. I can still remember my mom frying chicken in the kitchen as I began to hear thunder outside) I met my father as he came up the sidewalk and we talked about the growing storm. It was coming from an unusual direction; from the southeast. As the sky grew darker, the television show we were watching was suddenly interrupted by a weather bulletin. We weren't watching WHIO at the time. We were listening to WKEF and they didn't have any weather radar. We heard a lady by the name of Virginia Bigler (I think) tell us that there was a tornado warning for Montgomery and Greene counties. Our house didn't have what you would call a real basement. The front half was underground, but the rear of the house wasn't. We looked at each other and headed downstairs. My brother, who was in high school at the time, decided that he didn't want to lose his record collection, so he began making trips up and down the steps to bring his records downstairs. Oblivious to the danger, I decided to follow him. By this time, the wind was roaring. We had about 30 cottonwood trees in our backyard and I stopped to notice they were bending farther than I had ever seen them before. For some unexplained reason, I decided to unplug my clock. It was 4:40. I started hearing hail and I ran back downstairs. I told my mother hail was falling. We all listened to the radio and huddled together until the storm had passed. As soon as it seemed safe, we went back upstairs and looked outside. We couldn't believe our eyes. The hail on the ground was larger than baseballs. It had dented our cars. My father went out and picked some up and put it in our freezer so he could prove that it really happened. By this time, the reports of the damage in Xenia were coming in. "War Zone", "Devastated", "Disaster". We turned on the television and heard the anchormen, Don Wayne and Jim Baldridge telling us that the tornado had been huge and the damage was unimaginable. I loved Xenia. My father's family lived in Sabina and Wilmington and Xenia was always are special "stop over" for lunches and shopping. I knew Red Barn and Kennedy Korners. I cried because I was sad, but also because I was terrified. There was talk of another storm coming. At 2:00 am, when we were finally trying to get some sleep, we were awakened by a phone call from a friend to tell us another warning had been issued and we all went back downstairs to stay until the all clear was finally given. Many people remember how Gil Whitney went live on the air with that new weather radar and showed everyone just how big the storm was and where it was.
He was a true hero to many, many people.
I became terrified of storms. I even tried to not leave the house if the forecast was for rain. That spring and summer was a very busy one for severe weather and it is one year I will never forget. In the years since then, Xenia has not been spared. ( as can be seen from your information about the 2000 storm.) For whatever reason, Xenia seems to have always been prone to tornadoes. My fifth great grandfather, Timothy Bennett was caught in a tornado "in the Xenia neighborhood" in the early 1800s. ( I have an account of this on my family history website at www.oneohiofamily.com if you would like to read it.) I don't know if the town's geography has something to do with this or if it is just a fluke, but it is very interesting. I think Xenia has always been a town of strong people, and when I go there now I am so proud of the way that city came back, more beautiful than ever. I'll never forget that day for all the people who lost their lives. Thank you again for your website.
Sincerely, Lori J. Hellmund Kettering, Ohio

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