1975 Tornado: 45 Years Later

Andrew Hood

On the afternoon of May 6th, 1975 the Creighton Prep community took a devastating hit. 

That afternoon as the soccer and baseball team practiced outside, tornado sirens rang through the streets of central Omaha. Around 4:15 PM, an F4 tornado touched down in Sarpy County and made its way north, building strength as it traveled up 72nd street. 

The tornado tore through the intersection of 72nd and dodge, leveling everything in its path. A motel that once sat at the intersection was ripped completely from its foundations leaving a gaping hole in the ground where it once stood.  As the tornado approached Prep, students were shuffled quickly into the locker room to wait out the storm. For 15 terrifying minutes the 220 MPH winds shook the cinder block walls of the locker room, blowing out windows and sending glass and debris flying through the air. After the initial danger had passed, students and faculty emerged from the locker room to discover just how badly Prep had been damaged. Most of the roof had been torn off, leaving classrooms on the second floor open to the outside. Nearly every window in the building had been shattered and debris was strewn throughout the building.

The future looked bleak for Prep. The damage was so severe that it was impossible to continue holding school in the building. Some even thought that this might be the end of Prep as a whole. But in a time where so much had been torn apart, the Prep community pulled together in an almost unimaginable way. 

Walt Flint, the facilities manager at the time set the ambitious goal of having the building rebuilt  and ready for school in the fall. Contractors began work the next day. Even the students found ways to aid in the rebuilding efforts. The morning after the storm without any prompting, students piled into their cars and dove to the school to aid in the cleanup efforts. They stacked heaping piles of debris in the parking lot, swept the sharp glass shards off the floors, and even aided residents of nearby houses in their own cleanup efforts.

Because school had to be canceled for the remainder of the year, several issues still had to be settled before students could be officially dismissed for the summer, like final grades. Students had to meet their teachers in the old tin gym (located on the north side of the building where the track is today) to discuss their grades. Students were given the option of either accepting the grade they currently had, or taking the final right there on the gym floor. Another unresolved issue was that of the yearbook. Because of the diligence of the yearbook staff, the 1975 yearbook was successfully sent to press despite the loss of several photo negatives. It was dedicated to the Prep community as a whole in honor of its unified response to the disaster. 

Though the disaster brought the worst of nature, it brought out the best in the Prep community. It publicly displayed the commitment that the network of students and alumni had for their school. From the seniors to the freshmen, every member of the community was united to rebuild what had been destroyed even stronger than before.

*Photos Courtesy of the Creighton Prep Advancement Team*

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