KANSAS CITY, Mo. — May 20, 1957 the strongest and deadliest tornado in Kansas City history ripped through areas on the city’s south side.
The F5 Tornado’s path covered 71 miles at times nearly a half mile-wide.
Donna Davis was at the store with her parents when they rushed back to the neighborhood where her grandmother and little brother were.
“He said a tornado just wiped out everything between Martin City and Ruskin Heights,” Davis said.
Donna Davis’ home was badly damaged.
“From our house it went straight over to Ruskin Heights and tore it up terribly, one car was thrown up on the water tower,” Davis said.
That car was a ’55 Chevy. No one could tell from the mangled mess, but Bobbi Davis knows because she was inside. She said her father decided to try to outrun the tornado heading for their home.
“The tornado moved direction and caught us and proceeded to lift car up into the water tower,” Bobbi Davis said.
There are 44 names on a memorial outside Ruskin High School marking the tragedy of that fateful Monday in May. Two of them are Cornelia and Katheryn Davis, her 25-year-old mother and 7-year-old sister.
“All I remember is his forearm leaning in the back of the seat saying put this blanket around you and they found my sister with the blanket around her over by the high school,” Davis said.
But Bobbi Davis has been told she’s the little girl they found trapped in the catwalks of the water tower. She spent her fourth birthday in the hospital, but recovered.
“One of my mottos in life is I survived the biggest act of God, I can survive anything that man gives me here on Earth,” Davis said.
She said her father regretted the decision to try to outrun the biggest storm the area has ever seen until the day he died. Their home ended up only losing a few shingles. But more than 500 people were injured, and 44 people were killed.
“When a warning comes they need to take it serious,” Davis said of better warning systems and science today.
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