‘I thought I was in heaven’

Girl survives tornadic fury; suppermate dies

Michele Hammersmark

By Scott Thoma
Michele Hammersmark was five-years-old when she and her mother, Gertrude, traveled from Billings, MT., to visit her grandmother in Tracy.
It was June 13, 1968.
“I remember it like yesterday,” said Hammersmark, who now lives in Battle Mountain, Nevada, and is a longtime high-school science teacher.
Within hours of their arrival in Tracy, a devastatingly powerful F-5 tornado howled through Tracy, destroying scores of houses and killing nine people.
Michele, her mother, and grandmother emerged from one of the tornado-obliterated houses as survivors. A family friend, Ellen Morgan, who was also in the house, was killed by the tornado.
The little girl never forgot the horrific experience.
“It changes you,” says the now 55-year-old Michele. “You think you’re dead and you’re not. You learn to appreciate life and just take it one day at a time.”
For years, Michele says she “ blocked out that sound of the tornado in my mind… It was super loud.”

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.