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Saturday, June 15, 2024

A Tornado Disaster Memorialized in Lubbock

Recently I flew to Lubbock, Texas, to join a small group of travel writers (all vaccinated) on a press trip. I fell under the spell of the “Hub City” of West Texas: its quirkiness, the high plains (Lubbock sits at 3,202 feet; you can see for miles), its culture, food, and people — not to mention Lubbock is the hometown of Buddy Holly and the home of Texas Tech University.

Soon after my arrival, in the beautiful open-air courtyard at the Cotton Court Hotel enjoying the drink of Lubbock, a Chilton, John Osborne, President and CEO of the Lubbock Economic Development Alliance and Visit Lubbock, welcomed us with a dramatic story.

On May 11,1970, the Lubbock Tornado struck the city, plowing through downtown and taking the lives of 26 people. It was the first documented F5 tornado, Osborne explained:

“The impact of the infamous 1970 tornado changed the culture of Lubbock forever. In a matter of half an hour, the thriving heart of the city turned into ground zero for one of the most devastating natural disasters of its time. Now, Lubbock’s downtown is exhibiting a new birth of activity as revitalization efforts continue to shape the downtown of today. With significant projects like The Buddy Holly Hall of Performing Arts and Sciences, Citizens Tower, and the Cotton Court Hotel, the resiliency of our community is depicted in each historic building and new structure. As we look back 50 years later and see the effect of the tornado, we are overwhelmed by the strength of the city and find hope in how we move forward together, honoring the past and paving a way forward to the future.”

Soon after I departed Lubbock, on May 11, 2021, 51 years after the historic tornado, Lubbock unveiled its Lubbock Tornado Gateway Memorial Project. Designed to mirror the storm’s destructive path, the impressive granite gateway takes guests on a minute-by-minute journey through the events of that fateful night. The memorial uses 20-foot tall walls inscribed with quotes, facts, and the names of the victims to represent the paths of the tornado. On one end of the memorial is a fountain; its roaring waters mimic the sound of the storm that night.

My complete story about Lubbock will appear in the September/October issue of Evansville Living.

Photos provided by Lubbock Economic Development Alliance (LEDA) & Visit Lubbock.

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