“It was this big vacuum and then the windows started popping out and the bus started rolling. It probably rolled 7,8,9 times.” said Prairie Green resident Teri Keegan, remembering where she was 50 years ago when an EF-4 tornado struck Boone County killing 24 people.
Keegan was in a bus leaving Belvidere High School when the storm hit. “My bus had a lot a loss of life, not as much as the Caledonia one, but 4 or 5 people on my bus,” Keegan said.
The storm left a destructive aftermath. School buses were tossed, the high school and the surrounding community were heavily damaged. Many of those dead and injured were children like Keegan leaving school. However Keegan believes Belvidere grew close from the tragedy.
“A lot of people came together, Belvidere is a very resilient town. People came from all over and helped to put it together, and people went on,” she said.
Hundreds of stateline residents gathered at Belvidere High School and the Boone County Historical Museum to remember those lost in the devastating storm. Many of those attending were survivors including Paul Turner who believes it’s important for people to remember the day’s significance.
“Now, as we get all older I think we need to commemorate and honor all the victims and pass the torch on to other people so they really recognize what happened,” Turner said. Survivors Rhonda and Renee Prell who’s house was lost during the storm agreed.
“I think it’s apparent what this means to this community,” Renee Prell said. “Look at the turn out of the people that are here, I think it means a lot to a lot of people and it’s very important to not forget,” she added.
“It’s unbelievable 50 years later, there’s people coming in from all over,” Turner said. “I think it’s a sense of community and a sense of reaching out and helping and honoring each other too,” he added.