Twenty-five years have past since that fateful day -- Friday, May 31, 1985. Some details are now vague. I thought I'd never forget each little detail. I am sure for those who lived through that day, they still have vivid memories.
According to my calendar, Friday had been a regular work day for me at the library. As was our routine, when my parents and I had nothing on in the evening, we were sitting in the family room of our 10th Street West home watching a television program. I don't remember what we were watching when the program was interrupted to say that there had been a devastating tornado in Barrie and in other parts of southern Ontario.
My mother became very anxious. Trying to be optimistic, I said that perhaps, my sister and her family might have been lucky to have escaped and we shouldn't panic until we knew more.
Then the phone rang. Who was calling? Would it be my sister?
It was a friend of my sister's calling to say that Nancy and the children were okay. (A was 8 1/2 and H was 6.) My brother-in-law had been at work when the tornado hit. Yes, Nancy and the children had been in the house at the time. Yes, the house was badly damaged and unlivable, but the main thing was they were fine.
When we finally talked to my sister, we learned more about what happened. It was about quarter to 5 on Friday after a normal day at school. A. was to be spending the weekend at cub camp and my sister had already packed the car with his stuff. She didn't want to head out in the storm so they were just putting in time without power when the tornado hit. The sky was an eerie colour and when the winds picked up she decided to shut the front door, but she couldn't close it; something told her to get the kids down to the basement, even though she had never heard of a tornado in Ontario. She grabbed H; they had been sitting in front of the living room window. They ran for the basement and she yelled for A. who was playing in the dining room to run too but he didn't make it as far as they did. She described the sound like an airplane perhaps crashing close by.
There wasn't enough time to get to the basement. A. was still on the main level of the split level and he ended up under the dining room table saving him from being hit by a shelving unit. Nancy and H. were on the lower level. It was into that room a tree came through the window. They too escaped being badly hurt.
It was over in a matter of seconds. The roof was gone. The car had been lifted up. Furniture and appliances were shifted. The lawn furniture was swept away.
When their house was in the Toronto Star, we hardly recognized it.
They got back into their house in mid-September.
Here are photos taken when my parents and I visited them on Father's Day - June 16.
A's bedroom on the top level.
Information on the Barrie F4 tornado can be found on many different websites. It was only one of several tornadoes that hit Ontario and parts of the United States that day.
It is quite eerie to watch the videos. Today, the television station will have extras about it on the news and the Barrie newspaper will likely have more articles on it too.
The CBC archives has a video of one of the news reports on June 3, 1985
CKVR (Barrie station) video report
Barrie Examiner May 27, 2010
Thanks to my sister for clarifying some of the points for me.
© 2010 Janet Iles