Mr. Ramby, my name is Kelli Mendenhall. I would like to share my story after reading Lisa Pagett Hale's story. She is my cousin.
Since that day, I have had trouble remembering certain aspects of that day and really have to think hard to remember details. I guess it was a normal day up until the afternoon. I was in the living room of our house which at the time was on Route 68 just outside the city limits. My sister Tracey was there with me and my father Roy was in the garage working on one of the cars. My uncle Tom was there visiting at the time. My mother Arlene worked at Greene Memorial Hosp. and she was at work when it hit. We were watching tv when my dad busted through the front door and told us to get in the basement. We went down and from the walkout door we could see the cloud. My next door neighbor, George Fleming was standing at his back porch smoking his pipe, while his wife was yelling at him to get inside. I remember that now with a little humor although at the time it didn't strike us funny. I remember birds trying their best to escape the wind, but finally being sucked into it.
After it was over, we decided to drive into town to see if my mother was all right. Although we lived only 2 miles from the hospital, it took us over two hours to get there. We stopped at Cottage Grove and made sure my aunt Sheryl & Randell were ok. Sheryl told us she had heard another was on it's way. We left after that and went to Tom's house on King St. I remember his oldest son Roger was in there painting when it hit, and we found his house destroyed. Roger was in the basement, and I don't remember him saying a word that day. We got back in the car and continued on to the hospital. We finally arrived and dad told us to stay in the car. He went inside and returned probably 20 minutes later. He never said a word, and I wondered if she was all right. We went back home and found a candle burning in our front window. Inside my grandmother Minnie, my uncle Jerry and several other people were in the house. How they got in, I still don't know today. They were afraid we had been killed. About an hour after we arrived back home, Lisa's dad Hugh busted through the front door and was devastated. We asked dad what was wrong and he said his mother had been killed. I never knew he was the one who found her until I read Lisa's story. How awful it must have been.
The next morning, my mother came home around 5:30am. I was extremely glad to know she was ok. Unfortunately, I found out that day one of my classmates, David Graham, and his two other siblings had been killed. I used to ride the bus with him and I think about him whenever I think about that day.
My intense fear of tornadoes has turned into an unhealthy obsession with them. Whenever I see photos on tv, it is hard to look away from them. Even though I now live in Southern California where nothing like that happens, I still dream about them and replay it in my mind.
Xenia has returned, but to me it isn't the same small town it was. There are still empty lots which serve as reminders to me of that day. Compared to a lot of people, I was lucky not to have lost a grandmother, father, brother, sister, mother. I spend time now trying to forget that day, although I was glad to have found your site.
Thank you for reading my story.
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