50 years later: Survivor recalls his experience of deadly Lubboc - FOX34 Lubbock

50 years later: Survivor recalls his experience of deadly Lubbock tornado that killed 26

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LUBBOCK, Texas -

On May 11, 1970, a deadly F-5 tornado tore through Lubbock, killing 26 people and injuring 1,500 others.

"Back in 1970, I was an invincible college student at Texas Tech...a beautiful day, just came home from an outing at Buffalo Lake, water skiing," Robert Taylor, TIF Board chairman, said.

Taylor was living in a second floor apartment near 10th and Avenue X. He was cooking dinner with some friends when they heard a loud commotion outside. His friend saw a tree fly by, and that is when they went and hid under their beds.

"When it all calmed down, we got out, and you couldn't look around very well. Everything was just leveled, but you couldn't see it. There was no light, no electricity," he said.

Taylor then went to check on his father's business, R.C. Taylor Distributing, which was located on 13th and Avenue G. His father was out of town at the time.

"I started weaving my way downtown. I had never seen pitch black like that was pitch black," he said. "You couldn't see anything. Of course, no lights and there was flooding. It took a long time to get to that location."

Businesses and everything around that location were in good shape, he said. He drove back to his apartment, and by then, the sun was already rising. Taylor's apartment was one of two upstairs apartment buildings that survived.

"I felt like I knew what it was like in World War II, when you've seen a bombed out city, because there was nothing. Whatever was upright was not upright anymore. It was all gone," Taylor said.

The tornado caused approximately $250,000,000 in damage, about $1.7 billion in today's economy. Texas State Historian Monte Monroe said it would take years to recover.

"What is remarkable is all of our leaders came together, and in a 10-day period, they brought us back to some form of normalcy," Monroe said. "On May 13, President Richard Nixon declared Lubbock a national disaster area, and that brought in millions in federal aid."

Lubbock Congressman George Mahon, several U.S. senators, HUD, and other government entities came in to help relocate residents, provide insurance and give citizens the aid they needed.

"Our city fathers and mothers worked tirelessly to bring our city back and turn it into the wonderful place that we all enjoy living in today" Monroe said.

Taylor is the vice chairman of the Tornado Memorial gateway Project Committee. The project, set to open on the 51st anniversary next year, will memorialize the 26 people who died that night, and pay tribute to those who helped Lubbock rebuild.

He said he also wants citizens to remember it took a lot of hard work under terrible circumstances to recover from May 11, 1970.

"This project is going to be really great for Lubbock, great remembrance for the 26 people who lost their lives, and I think its just another example of everybody coming together," Taylor said.

 

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