50 years removed from watching large sections of their city get ripped apart by a killer tornado, Tracy residents past and present reflect, with smiles and tears
By Per Peterson
Saturday’s threatening skies could only produce a steady morning rain as former Tracy resident Scott Thoma made his way to the intersection of Park and Rowland streets, nine black balloons in tow.
The less-than-ideal weather was an appropriate backdrop to a solemn moment planned to remember the nine souls who perished in the F5 tornado that tore a path of destruction through Tracy in 1968. Thoma released one balloon at a time as the nine accompanying rings of the Tracy Lutheran Church bell by Clint Peterson pierced the otherwise silent occasion.
Nine chimes. Nine balloons. Nine lives never to be forgotten by the city they once called home.
Those killed were: Nancy Vlahos, 2; Barbara Holbrook, 50; Walter Swanson, 47; Ella Haney, 84; Mildred Harden, 75; Ellen Morgan, 75; Otelia Werner, 75; Fred Pilatus, 71; and Paul Swanson, 60.
“I didn’t think it would be that emotional for me,” Thoma said. “I always wanted to do it. I thought I would be standing here in the rain by myself — I didn’t expect this many people.”
For more on the weekend event, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.