When I moved to Wichita, Kansas, after growing up in New York City (my husband was stationed there by the Air Force in the mid 1970's) I quickly learned about the power and terror of tornadoes. I learned about tornado sirens. I learned to recognize the signs of hail and possible severe winds in the color and look of a sky.
I learned this lesson well enough to warn co workers, back in New York State, moments before an F1 tornado touched down a couple of blocks from our office in 1991. Fortunately, no one died in that small tornado. But the tornadoes that hit the middle of our United States get much larger and powerful than an F1. Sometimes they wipe out entire towns in a fury that is unimaginable except to people who have lived through like storms, or through wars.
Beauty isn't just in scenery or in artwork. Beauty is within the people of a city, a town, a village. It is in their resiliency, the ability to pass through crisis and emerge stronger.
I have no pictures of Udall, but I can offer you this video. This man explains he survived a tornado in the small town of Udall, Kansas, on Memorial Day, 1955. This tornado killed 89 out of the 610 residents, including one of his brothers. It is rated an F5, and is considered one of the 25 most deadly tornadoes in United States history.
Why would I want to talk about Udall when my theme for this month is "America the Beautiful"?
Because Udall lived through their trauma, and came back better than ever. They aren't the only town in Kansas to come back stronger from a tornado, either. In fact, another small Kansas town, Greensburg (another town I was through a time or two) was hit by an F5 tornado and came back - green.
Perhaps, if green had been "in" in 1955, Udall would have gone "green", too. And THAT would have been even more beautiful.
But, in my memory, those small Kansas towns built around large town squares survive in my memory - and, one day, I may be back.