The Memorial Day Tornadoes, One Year Later

(Source: Flickr/Nicholas Maasa)

On the night of May 27 2019, I was sitting on the couch after a long Memorial Day when I could start hearing the storms come in. They had just ravaged through the Dayton area and would begin to weaken once they reached my tiny town of Jamestown, Ohio, a small town a little over 30 minutes from Sinclair Community College. 

My family and I, like most families in our area, began to seek shelter in our basement once the warning was issued for our area. We all were terrified and anxious of what would happen next. My dad and sister fell asleep, while my mom and I stayed up, following the weather, seeing how many tornadoes were being confirmed. 

Sirens were blasting my neighborhood and I remember hearing that the first tornado had touched down outside of my town, only three miles from my home. A second one eventually came through, also outside of my rural area. I remembered when the sirens finally ceased, that I was finally able to get some sleep after what was a long, terrifying night. 

“We were all anxious and scared, almost anticipating being hit,” said Valerie Cope, Associate Professor of Math at Sinclair. Recalling the night of the storm. 

There were a total of 16 tornadoes that occurred throughout our area during the night of May 27th and during the early morning hours of May 28th. Jamestown only had an EF2 and EF1, but still did damage to some homes in the countryside surrounding my town. Dayton, on the other hand, was truly hit the hardest.

The most dangerous tornado of the night, an EF4, began towards the west side of Brookville, tore through places around the Dayton areas of Trotwood, Northridge, and eventually ended close to the Greene County border, leaving 20 miles worth of destruction. 

There were also tornadoes in Celina, where an elderly man died from the storm, as well as West Milton, Troy, Elizabeth Township, Beavercreek, Phillipsburg and an EF0 in Butler Township. 

A video on ABC covering the tornado the following day. (Source: Youtube/ABC News)

“…the house shook,” said Cynthia Richardson, Sinclair’s Adjunct Professor of English. “And I knew the outside would come crashing in through my large picture windows at any moment.”

But what began as a crazy night many of us will never forget, turned out to be a morning where people would begin a very long process of helping out, showing how strong Dayton can be. Both civilians and organizations helped volunteer their time, as many of them lost their homes. 

“Still, I am encouraged by the spirit, strength, and perseverance of the people of Dayton as they slowly rebuild,” said Richardson. 

The Dayton Foundation began setting up a relief fund after the storms and many other local organizations came to all of the areas affected to help as much as they could. From cleaning up trees and debris, to making sure families are getting what they needed, everyone was given an opportunity to help. 

“I was so amazed when a young man came up her driveway and offered to help. He was a firefighter from Columbus, a young man with a chainsaw, a stranger. He worked hard all day but wouldn’t take a penny,” said Becky Pudenz, a lab tech in the Biology department.

“The months that followed were eye-opening for me.” Cope recalls, “Because you can help clear land and provide food in the short term, but we had families in our area who didn’t have a place to live.  And even though they had insurance and would eventually get things fixed, it took a very long time. Some contractors were still working on houses in December.”

As many were helping rebuild Dayton during this difficult time, it showed that people could come together after an eventful night. It would be expensive and even long-term as it is still ongoing to this day. 

Wearing the “Dayton Strong” pin on my Pride of Dayton marching band uniform this past season means something, it means that I am fortunate to be in a city that cares so much about its people. Dayton is a city that’s extremely resilient, turning from Dayton Strong to Dayton Stronger one year after what would be a year’s worth of tragedy. 

Jackie Kasner

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