This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Palm Sunday tornados that struck throughout northern Indiana and the midwest. An article in Friday’s Goshen, Ind., News, recounts the impact on Elkhart County, which was severely impacted by the storms. Included in the story is the account of Audrey Leek, who with her husband, Richard, were conducting an evening youth program at the Grace Brethren Church. A portion of the story appears below. Click here to read the complete article.
50 YEARS LATER: Residents recall fateful Palm Sunday
‘I couldn’t see anything’
Audrey Leek and her late husband, Richard, were conducting an evening youth program at Grace Brethren Church at the corner of C.R. 20 and C.R. 111 in Dunlap, just west of where the Concord Mall now stands, when the second killer tornado struck.
“We didn’t know what was going on when someone told us to stay down away from the windows,” Leek said. “I had my eyes closed and then I happened to open my eyes. I looked up and saw two boys, mine and the pastor’s son standing by a window. I told them to get away. I couldn’t resist looking out the window and all I saw was everything full of dirt. I couldn’t see anything.”
The second tornado, the one that would wipe out Sunnyside, was on its way. Leek said people started running into the church from outside to take refuge as the killer storm approached.
The storm narrowly missed them.
When the all-clear was given in the aftermath of the tornadoes, Leek said it wasn’t an easy task for the couple, who lived at 3370 Hammond Avenue, across the road from C.R. 45. They were within the perimeter near Sunnyside subdivision, which had been completely destroyed.
The 91-year-old doesn’t remember the time sequence after the tornadoes hit but recalled the National Guard had arrived and set up a perimeter for emergency personnel and to safeguard against looters in the hard-hit areas.
“When we were told it was safe to go home after church, my husband was told he had to go to the (Dunlap) fire station and get an identification tag,” Leek said. “It was so they knew we lived there.”
The yellow paper identification tag was two inches by two inches in diameter with a knotted string through a hole in the top.
“We had it (the tag) on the sun visor of our station wagon,” Leek said. “I remember that Wednesday when we went to see LBJ (President Lyndon B. Johnson) and were trying to get home before dinner. The National Guard wouldn’t let us through because they hadn’t received the all-clear even though we had heard on the radio the President had left the area. We had to respect that and I learned what it was like to be under guard duty. I didn’t like it.”
Click here to read the complete article.