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Remembering Disasters

Tue, Jul 28, 2015


John Hagan

It was a hot and humid afternoon on April 21st, 1967, when a tornado charged through the Village of Oak Lawn. The tornado left 33 people dead, injured 1000, and damaged an estimated $50 million worth of property.
The tornado caused a lot of fear, as explained by some of the survivors. It was reported that there were power outages, people screaming, and that the tornado sounded like a freight train.
I was never in a tornado, and part of my reason for coming back to the Midwest (Chicago, in particular) after being laid off from my job in Las Vegas was because of my fascination with tornados.

Diane Wilkins

A great disaster is all the service cuts the new governor has put into effect. People are not able to go tox work without worrying about their children, because of childcare cuts. The cost of living in this city is terrible enough. If you move into a decent neighborhood, a one bedroom runs at least $1000 per month. Studios run at least $850. There are subsidy apartments, but the waiting lists are forever long, and if you have an eviction in the past you can’t even get the apartment. This is very hard on the homeless, and there are so many out here on the streets.

James Metzgar

The largest property disaster in Chicago history was the Chicago fire of October 1871. It was brought about by a very dry summer and fall, in an era when there was so much wood in the construction of buildings. The first flames were seen in the stable of a couple called Patrick and Katherine O’Leary. The legend is that a cow kicked over a lantern, but this has never been proven. However, good came out of this because Chicago improved its construction and even built the world’s first skyscrapers.
In a way the fire was a great equalizer because rich and poor alike suffered losses, but in the aftermath the poor were more affected because they could not afford that stone and concrete materials to rebuild their homes.

A. Allen

One of Chicago’s disasters that I have experienced in my lifetime was when Martin Luther King Jr. marched in Marquette Park in November of 1966 for equal housing rights. He was hit in the head with a rock thrown by one of the by-standers. His response, after the march, was that in all of his travels, he has never experienced so much hatred and hostility as he has seen in Chicago.
In the wake of this disaster, the real estate agents and landlords agreed to abide by equal housing laws, as long as the marches stopped. It was a tragedy then, and it is a tragedy now for neighborhoods to discriminate. Now it seems that housing discrimination is based on income more than race.

Julie Gurak

[Regarding the Great Chicago Fire) The cow did it. It may sound funny, but it was a sad thing that happened. It was a bad thing for Chicago’s residents. They must have used the lake waters to put it out.

Renee Ducksworth

Harold Washington passed away in office. He was the first Black Mayor in Chicago. Jane Byrne was the first women mayor in Chicago, 35 years ago. She passed away this year.

Morris Dillard

Martin Luther King Junior’s attempt at desegregating the North was quite a challenge, especially here in Chicago. I remember being around 14 or 15 years old, growing up in Atlanta, GA., when I heard about his attempts to march on the streets up North. I remember feeling hopelessness, remorse and sadness, imagining how the marchers felt at being stormed with rocks, billy clubs, dogs and slander. It sounded like a disaster. The news we received at home (Atlanta, GA) added even more tension to an already ugly scene (the Civil Rights Movement). Even as I’m writing, emotions are being triggered, especially since I watched and observed my father being arrested for demonstrating on the streets with MLK, not fully understanding everything that was going on, and not realizing that history was being made.


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