Hanover remembers 40th anniversary of devastating tornado

It was 40 years ago today that a massive F4 tornado struck Hanover, leaving devastation in its wake for the campus and the surrounding areas of Jefferson County. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries or deaths to anyone on campus, although 10 were killed in Jefferson County, Ind.

Classes resumed April 22, just 19 days later, due to President John Horner’s inspired leadership and the hard work of many students, faculty and staff in the critical days following the storm.

Returning the campus to its former grace and beauty could also not have happened without insurance and the unprecedented fundraising campaign that quickly brought in millions in support. If you were one of those many donors, we thank you for your gift. Hanover College wouldn’t be here today without you.

To commemorate the event, the campus community and alumni from the Classes of ’74, ’75, ’76 and ’77 will observe a moment of silence at 3:51 p.m. today. An archival display of the aftermath of the tornado and the efforts to resume operations in the midst of nature’s devastation is also on view in the Campus Center Lobby.

Sandy Schwarz Freeman '74 wrote on our HC Alumni Facebook page, “I remember this moment like it was yesterday. President Horner's speech was so uplifting and reassuring to us!  That day he became "dad" to all of us...telling us that we were all going to be ok and so was Hanover!” 

Carol Steele McLaughlin '74 added, "Yes, I remember clearly! Anyone who was there could hardly forget!"

"I was visiting with the dorm director in Donner and someone came in and said they heard a tornado was coming our way," said Beth Boord '76. "So the director and I went up to the cupola to see if anything was coming. I was behind her on the ladder, as she exclaimed something like 'oh my God,' as it headed straight towards the Phi Mu house. Needless to say there was a mad scramble to get everyone to the basement.  Whew!"

"I was in physics 101 lab with Dr. Conklin," said Mike Zeddies '77. "The storm was nearing, although it was sunny and warm at the time, but the overhead lights were flickering on and off. As our experiment that day depended on lab equipment powered on, Dr. Conklin told the class to just sit tight for a few moments before we began the experiment. He walked over to the northeast most window and looked out before he looked west. He obviously saw the funnel coming down the street and yelled for everyone to run to him and to get down on our knees. Everyone did exactly that! The train came roaring past our window and as we looked out tree after tree that lined the parkway were literally uprooted straight up out of the ground and knocked over. It lasted just seconds.

"We watched the funnel cross over the ravine and into a housing subdivision where we witnessed the roofs of numerous houses just explode upward. We then ran out to The Quad and all the trees were just knocked over. Mr. Ross, an associate professor of economics, ran thru The Quad to check on his wife on faculty row. I've never forgotten those moments."

Liz Mellett Rehfus '74 commented, "As I recall, I was skipping choir practice and taking a nap! I woke to the sirens, grabbed my smokes, and ran down the center House stairs to the basement. No shoes, no purse, just smokes! Talk about priorities... And when I got back most of my room, and everything that had been above it (ceiling, roof, etc.) was long gone. I am still, 40 years later, no darn good in storms."

"Thanks for sending this reminder of that amazing day," wrote Catherine Forslund '77. "I only attended HC for one year, but that was the year I was there and I remember it so very, very well. In the intervening years, I have returned to that day  when really bad weather appears where I am or I hear anything about Xenia, Ohio, or another place being hit by a tornado. I visited the campus a year ago, driving thru it and remarking to myself how hard it was to tell this day ever happened. I guess my most distinctive visual memory is of the pink Phi Mu bedspreads hanging in the remaining trees, but your message caused me to stop today at 3:51 and think of those who died or were seriously injured. I’m  thankful for many things in my life, especially the humility gained that day in the face of Mother Nature’s fury."