Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Twister Scraps Teen's Dance Plans ; Martinez: God Provided Protection in Storm

Newspaper article The Topeka Capital-Journal

Twister Scraps Teen's Dance Plans ; Martinez: God Provided Protection in Storm

Article excerpt

I was 16 years old that hot, muggy summer night in June. My hair was in curlers. My sister and I were getting ready to attend a teen dance that evening at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Hall on N.E. Chandler Street, just a few blocks from our Oakland home. All the neighborhood teens looked forward to those dances, which always featured a live local band.

Daddy was bartending at the Lucky 5 restaurant owned by our grandparents, just down the street on N.E. Seward Avenue. Mama was cleaning offices at her part-time job downtown. My brothers were outside playing with friends.

I was supposed to be taking care of my four younger brothers until Mama got home, and then I was going to dance the night away. An ordinary summer night just like any other.

Suddenly came the blast of the tornado siren, slicing through the dusk of that June 8 night. My brothers came racing in. My mother's voice came to mind immediately: "Grab the transistor radio, a flashlight, candles and matches, and a jug of water." My sister and brothers hustled down the basement stairs carrying the supplies, while I locked the front door.

I also took a few seconds to grab a piece of blessed palm (as Catholics, we always had palms) and made the sign of the cross at all four corners of our house just as I had always seen my mother do during severe weather. Then I, too, raced down to the basement.

A couple of my younger brothers were crying, begging for mom and dad. My sister did her best to reassure them, while I was trying to listen to the reports coming from the radio. I grew anxious and scared as I heard the weatherman warning people to get to safety immediately.

The tornado was coming off Burnett's Mound and heading toward Washburn University. I began trembling when I heard it was headed to the downtown area after hitting Washburn. Oh, no! Mama was in one of those buildings!

Fighting tears and my growing fears, I tried to keep it together for the younger ones' sake. Then I heard the news that made my stomach drop. The tornado was bouncing toward Oakland. My Oakland! The little neighborhood where my family and friends lived. …

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