By Mrs. Linda Schaffner
What were you doing in Lubbock in May 1970?
I was a Senior at Texas Tech University.
What do you remember from the night of May 11, 1970?
I landed at Lubbock Airport about 5:00 the afternoon of May 11. As we were flying in, I could see the huge thundercloud with the strangest yellow hue towering above the plane. As I stepped on to the stairs I was blown into the rail, the wind was blowing so hard. I found myself stranded in the airport because I could not get my ride on the phone. I ended up calling a friend who picked me up after she got off work. As we were on the highway going toward the Tech campus, it started hailing. We pulled off the road and found shelter under the Country Club awning. After about 30 minutes we continued on Mesa Dr. to the intersection of Hwy 289 and 87 to Avenue Q then west on 4th street. At about 4th and Ave T it started raining so hard it was hard to see. We followed the tail lights of a car in front of us and turned off 4th onto Ave. U. We parked on the east side of a dumpster in the parking lot of an Ozarka Bottled Water warehouse and business. The rain stopped but the wind was blowing so hard that I could not open the passenger side door. We sat in the car for about 10 minutes when I had this feeling of urgency to get out of the car. I talked my friend into getting out and running...where we didn't know. Luckily as we ran down the alley, the garage door to the warehouse was open. We ran in and were greeted by 2 men, one worked there the other was the driver of the car we followed. They lead us into the office area where the driver of the car had his wife and 2 pre school children. The wind had all but died down and my friend decided to approach the huge plate glass window to check on her car. I was at the back of that area. Just as she was about 8 feet from the window all hell broke loose! There was an exploding sound combined with breaking glass. I instantly dropped to the floor with knees and legs tucked under me, head tucked down and arms/hands protecting head and neck. A ceiling tile fell on me. At some point not very long from that explosion, I got up and ran with everyone else to take shelter in the hall with 2 of the ceiling tiles (they were large) over us. The family reciting the Lord's Prayer in Spanish and my friend and I in English while the sound of a freight train raged outside.
What was your reaction to the destruction you saw in the days following the storm? Did the storm damage your home, workplace, or school?
When it was clear the the tornado was over, we emerged from our shelter. The car windows were blown out, but that was all. The dumpster we parked beside was in the middle of the intersection of 4th and Ave. U. The gas station the warehouse was behind, wasn't there. The outside walls of the office that created the hall we were in, were destroyed and the roof was gone. Two guys from Tech drove up to see if we were OK. They offered to take us back to the dorm after they checked on their house and a girlfriend. We went to about Ave. S or T and turned down a block with electric lines down and sparking. There were some houses still standing, but most were gone including theirs...it was dark and with no landmarks, they really couldn't tell. Then on the the girlfriends. her apartment was behind a grocery store. It was missing all of it's walls. But piled up in the middle of the foundation were cans, shelves, etc.
Did you know anyone who was injured or killed by the tornado?
The driver of the car we followed had a severe cut on his arm and was bleeding badly. I have no idea why my friend and I were not sliced to pieces by flying glass from the window, but I only had a bruise on my hand from the corner of the ceiling tile and a 1/4 in deep cut on my ankle and lots of insulation and fine pieces of glass in my hair and clothes.
Did you or anyone you know help with the emergency response or cleanup following the tornado? What was your role? Explain.
Since I was a student at Tech and finals were finished etc. my parents were coming May 13 to move me back home for the summer.
How did the tornado experience change you? How did it change the City of Lubbock?
I learned to follow my instincts. I believe that I have a guardian angel who was pushing me to leave the car and have faith that shelter would be provided. I became more confident in myself and my ability to make decisions in dangerous situations.