Crowd gathers to commemorate tornado’s anniversary

By Bob Steenson,

A large, interested and in many ways kindred crowd gathered at the Floyd County Historical Museum Tuesday afternoon to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the tornado that devastated Charles City.

There were notes of levity — Mayor Dean Andrews drew a groan when he said he had been told to not get too windy with his remarks — but also moments of solemnity, when the names of the 13 victims were read, and a few moments later as the group drew silent, listening to tolling church bells that marked the time of day the tornado had struck.

A highlight of the event was the unveiling of an interactive electronic display, containing video and audio clips, newspaper stories and more from the day the tornado struck and days afterward as the community picked itself up, as well as more than 800 photos, many of them seldom seen before, according to Adam Nielson.

Nielson is a masters degree student at the University of Northern Iowa who is interning at the museum, and who set up the kiosk display with funding from the Floyd County Board of Supervisors.

The kiosk will remain part of the museum’s exhibit on the tornado, and allow people to scroll through the various media from the days of and after the tornado struck on May 15, 1968.

As Nielson was explaining how the display had been created, several people offered short tales of their own experiences on that day.

At one point Nielson asked how many people had personally experienced the tornado, and it looked like almost half of the group of more than 200 people raised their hands.

He asked how many people had lost loved ones that day, and a handful of people indicated they had.