50th Anniversary Of 1967 Belvidere Tornado


April 21, 1967 is a day Robert Ellison will never forget.

“It was just a gorgeous morning, unusually warm,” he said.  “All of a sudden booming, ground shaking thunder in the distance.”

He was in the eighth grade and getting on the bus at Belvidere High School.

“It just got dark as night. I’ve never seen the sky the color of tar.”

That scene would turn into a deadly one just moments later.
“I said  that is an indication that something bad is coming. Should I run inside into the office and ask if there is a tornado warning and the bus driver said no they would have come out and warned us if there was.”

But the bus driver was wrong, a massive F-4 tornado in Belvidere was barreling in their direction prompting Ellison to run off the bus and towards the high school.

“I turned around and looked behind me and here came one of the buses and bang it hit me. I was in a coma for 3 days and it’s the last thing I remember.”

50 years later, Ellison keeps historical articles and photos of that horrific day, a moment that no eighth grader should ever endure.

His is just one of the stories of survival and sadly death that author Mike Doyle knows well.
He’s documented many of those stories from that day in his revised book about the powerful tornado that killed 24 people in Boone County, including 17 children and injured 500 more.

“We tried to find enough information as we could about each person who passed away that day and the day after and the subsequent days. We succeeded in some stories, we did not in other stories. We still like to tell those stories,” said Doyle.

Not only survivor stories, but family members of those who died wanting to give their accounts as well.
Reminding us all 50 years later that in one moment of time everything can change without warning and how life can be fragile.

“I kind of wonder why did God spare my life and take others,” said Ellison.

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