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Twenty-five Years
Storm left young people with emotional scars for years

By Kevin Schuster

I had a few fears as a youngster.

I was afraid of being hit by a pitch when I played Little League baseball. I wasn't fond of the high diving board at Pier Park pool.

Well, those fears subsided. But there was one concern that stuck until my teenage days: storms.

Those tornado-warning words worried me more than a poor report card. I had my share of experience with each category.

The June 3, 1980, nightmare haunted me for years. Summer was over just a few days after school let out, thanks to an F-4 tornado that blew through our southeast Grand Island neighborhood.

There are few things a person forgets in life. I fondly remember my first home run in baseball, high school and college graduation, being hired full time by The Independent, meeting my wife in 2001 and getting married one year ago.

Then there's June 3.

Our family attended my cousin's T-ball game that dreaded Tuesday night. It was warm and humid -- a typical Nebraska night.

We arrived home minutes before the tornado sirens sounded. The Grand Island area spent the next three hours in a tornado warning.

We were listening to KRGI, which reported widespread damage in Capital Heights. The warning continued. This storm's velocity increased.

It was around 10:20 p.m. when the radio station reported a tornado at Meves Bowl. Less than a minute later, the radio went out. It was quiet but not for long.

That's when it happened. Dodge Street was destroyed. The house shook. Numerous items shattered.

It sounded like a train going over our house. Unlike the Kentucky Derby, it was not the most exciting 2 minutes. Finally, the rattling and rumbling stopped.

My dad, Dennis, went upstairs to retrieve our shoes. He was the only one in our family of five wearing shoes.

"I was looking out the back door shortly after it happened," Dad said. "I was talking to Mom (who remained downstairs with my brother, sister and me) from upstairs. I told Mom the garage was gone. There was debris in the back yard. Lightning was everywhere. That's how you can see."

We were lucky only to lose a garage. Both next-door neighbors had severe roof damage. Our neighbor on the corner of Oak and Dodge streets lost two rooms.

We had 10 people sleep in our basement that night. Our downstairs family room was among the few neighborhood rooms that didn't contain broken glass.

My mom, Marie, didn't get much sleep that night. She was afraid, as well. Her fears dealt with the aftermath.

"I could not wait for daylight," Mom said. "I was worried how the neighborhood looked. We walked up and down the neighborhood to see the damage and to make sure everybody was OK."

I slept until 8:30 a.m. the next day. Then my brother, Mike, and sister, Kaylene, and I made the dreaded trek upstairs.

The sky was gray. Debris was everywhere. There was panic in the streets.

A young man who lived behind us couldn't find his two dogs. My brother and I went down the street to make sure our neighborhood friends were OK. We continued to walk up and down the street in amazement.

"I think we were in a state of shock the next day," Mom said. "In a daze. We didn't know what we were supposed to do at first."

My dad climbed on the roof to assess the damage. He found a few holes.

Our house sustained an estimated $25,000 in damage. Automobiles, carpeting, siding and windows were among the carnage.

The Plymouth Volare parked in our garage was totaled. A side window was broken out of our Dodge station wagon.

Our residence didn't have electricity, sewer or water for at least 10 days. The phone was out for two weeks.

My siblings and I were not around for the immediate repairs. We stayed with relatives in St. Libory and Gibbon for about 10 days.

When we reluctantly returned home, my parents constantly warned us to watch where we stepped. With piles of debris everywhere, the probability of injury was high.

Make that too high for me.

Around the Fourth of July, I was playing basketball with a neighborhood friend when I stepped on a piece of plywood. A nail went right through my shoe and pierced my foot.

That earned me a trip to the doctor for a tetanus shot. It was a perfect cap to a lost summer.

I had many fun summers growing up in Grand Island. However, it was not great to be 8 in the summer of 1980.

Kevin Schuster has been an Independent sports writer and stringer for 14 years. He currently lives in Omaha.