For those of us who were in Kalamazoo when the tornado hit downtown in 1980, it is hard to believe it has been 31 years – at least it is hard for me.
When it hit downtown, I was with other library staff at a meeting of the Friends of KPL in the auditorium of the 1959 library building. I remember hearing the sirens, I remember most of the attendees just dismissing it, and I remember one of the Friends saying something like “I grew up in Kansas, I know this could be serious, I’m leaving.” With that comment, we all followed her and went to the basement to join staff and patrons who were gathering here.
I guess it was only a few minutes until the sirens stopped. We all emerged from the basement and saw the devastation as we looked out from the adult reading area of the library – cars parked along South Street with the windows blown out, trees down in Bronson Park and across the streets, curtains flapping and papers blowing out of the shattered windows of the Comerica Building.
The library closed shortly thereafter. It wasn’t until I got home and watched the news that I realized the devastation along the path to downtown AND the further damage downtown.
With this tornado in our memory and all the recent ones south of us, I think we have all learned to take the warnings seriously and move promptly to a safer place.
Our local history staff has compiled photos and video, along with an essay, about the tornado. It will bring back memories to those who were here, interesting Kalamazoo history for those who were not.
TWISTER! The 1980 Tornado