Caught Ever After, Children of the Ruskin Heights Tornado

 
9780615486857: Caught Ever After, Children of the Ruskin Heights Tornado
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On the evening of May 20th, 1957 hundreds of unsuspecting children found their lives altered forever by an F-5 tornado. Known as the Ruskin Heights Tornado, this monster not only destroyed lives and property along its seventy-one mile path, but undermined the security and trust of its youngest survivors. In an era when children were not encouraged to analyze their feelings, many of these survivors carried unanswered questions and fears with them into adulthood. Caught Ever After tells the story of how a fifty-year reunion and memorial re-dedication brought back neighbors and classmates to share memories, some for the first time. It lays bare the impressions, misconceptions and anger the tornado left in its wake. Through memories and family stories it examines the questions of survivors -- author Carolyn Glenn Brewer among them -- and how this tornado's children continue to cope. Carolyn Glenn Brewer's book Caught In The Path told of that horrifying May night through the eyes of adults. That was only half of the story.

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About the Author:

Carolyn Glenn Brewer, writer, historian, teacher, and lecturer, is also a child of the Ruskin Heights Tornado. Her widely acclaimed book, Caught In The Path, a Tornado's Fury a Community's Rebirth, has been featured on local and national television and radio programs, and adapted into a one-act play. She has also written for JAM magazine. She and her husband live in Kansas City, where besides writing she spends her time as a band director and musician.

Review:

The tornado was just one of many to have occurred in the area...yet the deaths of forty people more than half a century ago and the experience of living through a deadly manifestation of nature - nature that is supposed to be our friend and ally - has radically affected the lives of many people. it is the stories of those people that Carolyn Glenn Brewer has told in her fascinating and heart-rending story of the ordinary people of the region struggling with forces hugely beyond their control. Author Carolyn Glenn Brewer seems to have devoted years of her life to redeeming these lives and histories and it is much to her credit to have done so. This is a splendid achievement. --John Walsh bookideas.com

Carolyn Glenn Brewer's 1997 book, Caught In The Path explored the trajectory and aftermath of the 1957 Ruskin Heights tornado. Brewer, both a survivor of the tornado and local expert, was heavily involved in the memorial gathering arranged for the 50th anniversary of the tragedy in 2007. She was greatly moved by the impact the tornado had on the many children who lived through it. These children, now adults, describe vivid memories, disturbing nightmares, and lifelong trauma associated with their ordeal. Brewer was so struck by their collective experiences that she decided to write another book about the tornado, this time from the perspective of the children who had lived through it. The first half of Caught Ever After follows the F-5 tornado's 71-mile path through the small communities southwest of Kansas City, Missouri, recounting, in chronological order, the frantic attempts of each family to escape the storm. Some of the children were too young to know to be scared; many were old enough to be terrified. The vignettes are interspersed with the actual words of the survivors, gathered in the hundreds of interviews that Brewer conducted. Quotes and photographs from local newspapers enhance the first-person coverage. The second half of the book explores the aftermath for the children, from the first minutes, hours, and days following the storm, to their recurring anxiety, even as adults, about heavy winds and tornado season. Their childhoods were cut in half, into a before and after, and the prevailing wisdom at the time was that it was better to just move forward than dwell, or even talk about, what had happened. Most families busied themselves with rebuilding and even those that lost family members in the tornado were not encouraged to talk about their grief. Woven throughout both halves are Brewer's memories of her own family's experience during the tornado, including questions about why her parents had made certain decisions that night. Brewer tells stories of the survivors and explores their pain in well-written, engaging prose. The second half of the book is especially compelling, as she delves into the popular culture and societal norms that shaped the emotions of these children. We do not normally get such an in-depth look at the inner-life of survivors of tragedies, and Brewer brings us the intimate details in a straightforward, respectful manner. An excellent book. --C. Rowan BookReview.com

The god-awful story of a monster tornado's progress, told by Kansas City writer Brewer. who was also a witness. The year 2007 marked the 50th anniversary of a Category 5 tornado--known as the incredible and highest category, a step above the merely devastating--that wended its way from Williamsburg, Kansas to Knobtown, Missouri, in a display of unrivaled energy and, to those who lived through the event, what must have felt like capricious malice. Brewer was then a child living in Ruskin Heights, Missouri. In Ruskin we had nothing but sky, she says. Santa came from the sky, so did Grandma. God lived in the sky. We were kids. What could you trust more than the sky? Then something nasty dropped from the heavens -- First the smell. Sour, earthy, the inside smell of things never meant to be opened.-- Brewer follows the course of the twister, taking testimony. Much of it underscores the banality of portent -- A few blocks to the east, Barbara Keister had a full house&--but there are also instances of beautiful understatement -- [Les] Lemon's house was spared with only minor damage, but Les had a difficult time going to sleep that night. There are a few stolen asides when readers can let their breath out, as when food critic Calvin Trillin sings the praises of Jess and Jim's Steak House in Martin City, Missouri (destroyed, then rebuilt): finest steak restaurant in the world. Still, the tendency is to go from ominous to sheer terror, from -- she noticed the neighbors were outside looking at the sky, to -- she placed the sleeping toddler in the linen closet and grabbed Melanie out of her crib. The nightmares and scars are legion, and still much in evidence, but when you see a house...lift up in the air about twenty feet, do a quarter turn, and disintegrate, nightmares and scars are to be expected. An almost unbearably vivid tale, experientially chromatic, but emotionally wrenching. --Kirkus Review

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