It was 50 years ago tonight a tornado struck DeWitt County, Ill., killing four people and causing extensive damage. It was also 50 years ago tonight I “cut my eye teeth” as a journalist.
As a college student (I was still a couple weeks away from graduation), my newspaper work had been confined almost exclusively to the Bloomington Pantagraph’s sports department. I had stopped by the newspaper office on that Wednesday evening when word arrived that a twister had hit Wapella, about 20 miles south of Bloomington. I nearly begged the night editor, Marshall Geiler, for a chance to go there. With no one else instantly available, he gave me the green light.
I had no plan, (obviously no cell phone), and no experience covering something that didn’t include some type of box score. I drove into the near darkness, found a rural home whose side had been ripped off, causing a “dollhouse” effect. It was among photos in the next morning’s paper. I also shared a byline with one of the paper’s top reporters, Dick Streckfuss, who later became a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska. I was proud.
Today’s Pantagraph has “remembrance” coverage of that storm, including a sidebar with George Spray, a friend and Pantagraph reporter who lived in Wapella. Find the stories at The Pantagraph