‘I felt lucky to be alive:’ Survivors of the Belvidere and Oak Lawn tornado outbreak tell their stories – 50 years later

A half century ago, 58 people died in northern Illinois in a ten tornado tirade that could not have hit at a worse time. WGN-TV’s Chief Meteorologist Tom Skilling had a chance to speak with survivors of the Belvidere tornado, many who were children when a twister hit Belvidere High School. Tom says never in his life has he had the opportunity to talk to a group of people who came so close to death and lived to tell about it. And thanks to their generosity in sharing their stories, a 50 year old weather event has been brought back to life.

Tom also spoke with survivors of the Oak Lawn tornado, including two sixth graders who were best friends until the tornadoes destroyed homes and scattered lives.

 

These additional raw footage clips are from the WGN-TV archives and generous viewers.

In March of 2012, WGN-TV viewers mailed meteorologist Tom Skilling a film canister marked, "Chicago Tornado." Tom Devine and his wife Dee had bought it at a flea market in Florida and didn`t have the heart to throw it in the trash. They mailed it to Tom, and it has become part of our 50th anniversary coverage of the April 21, 1967 Oak Lawn tornado. We recognize the blue suburban transit buses that were tossed in the air by the twister. See if you can identify other Oak Lawn landmarks that were hit.

 

WGN-TV flew a helicopter over Oak Lawn's tornado damage the day after ten tornadoes ravaged northern Illinois on April 21, 1967. It's easy to see from the air how much damage was done in just a few minutes. There are closeups from the ground as well to give you some idea of the clean-up and rebuilding job the village had ahead of it.

Please share these stories and videos and learn even more by clicking the links below.

Oak Lawn Public Library on Facebook

Oak Lawn Public Library

Oak Lawn Public Library presents: Voices in the Wind

Oak Lawn Public Library: Images of America

Boone County Historical Society on Facebook