What we could hear outside was something like a freight train, yes, but only if it had been a freight train made of demons, legions of them howling, each screaming wordlessly, “I will kill you. I will kill you.”
That’s what it sounded like to me.
But for those closer to 95th Street, hiding at Oak Lawn High School or the homes to the west, it certainly must have sounded worse. Especially for those trapped in the rush-hour traffic along Southwest Highway, watching other cars being flung into the air like blades of grass from a mower.
Some 16 people were killed in a block or two there, plucked out of traffic, before the killer tornado headed to the east and toward the city.
Perhaps I’m remembering it all wrong now, perhaps it wasn’t as loud as I remember, perhaps there were no demons calling. But there was the feeling of nature as evil, nature with a mind, predatory, nature intent on hunting us down.
So each time there is a tornado story in the news, I’m helpless. Pete and Nick are stuck on tornado stories too. I don’t even have to ask them. I know. And if you were there on the Southwest Side in 1967, when the sky turned from green to black, then you know too.
The next day it was cold outside. In days to come, we’d ride our bikes over to see homes destroyed, people in the streets, the Illinois National Guard deployed to stop the looters.
And since then, I’ve learned two things: I can’t live in a house without a basement. And tornadoes don’t sound like freight trains. We just say they do.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.