WF Emergency preparedness coordinator remembers “Terrible Tuesday”

WF Emergency preparedness coordinator remembers “Terrible Tuesday”

WICHITA FALLS, TX (TNN) - 40 years ago the lives of thousands of people changed after three massive tornadoes ripped across Texoma.

“I remember one family, it was a little old lady and a man,” said John Henderson, the City of Wichita Falls Emergency Preparedness Coordinator. “They had nobody there, she was trying to dig through the rubble looking for some pictures.”

Henderson was just 14 years old when he was called out to help, along with his brother after the 1979 disaster.

"I said 'Let me help you' because she was probably in her 70s, it was tough on her," said Henderson. "{The man} couldn't. He was sitting in the front porch and really you didn't even know it was a whole house."

As a member of the boy scouts, Henderson felt the need to lend a hand.

"I found her some pictures and I found a couple of other items," said Henderson. "She actually gave me some swan that she had. It was a ceramic swan and she was like 'Here take this.'"

40 years later, that gift is still at his house.

Henderson’s job was to comfort and help people who were looking for items after their home was destroyed.

“For us, it was just, we were doing what we were told. It makes us feel good. That was pretty much what the boy scouts wanted to do anyway,” said Henderson.

He now uses a presentation with facts of the tornado, which was made a couple of years after the disaster, to spread awareness.

"I still go and speak at events where I will go an ask the audience what is their number one fear of a natural disaster for Wichita Falls and a tornado is still primarily the number one," said Henderson.

Comparing then and now, Henderson believes people are more aware of the importance of having a plan.

“We all need to remember that it’s not just tornadoes. It’s floods, droughts, and wildfires,” said Henderson. “There is a lot of things that we as citizens need to be prepared for and I think that’s the key, that every citizen needs to take ownership and be prepared for any kind of disaster.”

The center for disease control report shows the majority of people who lost their lives were in a vehicle. Some of those people had jumped in their car on purpose to avoid the storm.

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