Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Into the Storm" Trailer - And the 1990 Twister of Plainfield, IL

Today, the teaser trailer for "Into The Storm" debuted, and if you haven't seen it, let me just say that it looks INCREDIBLE! I love a Hollywood disaster flick if it's done right, and this one looks like it will be amazing.

Having said that...

It gave me chills hearing that siren. And it brought back some haunting memories. I grew up in northern Illinois, about 40 miles southwest of Chicago. It isn't an official part of the infamous "Tornado Alley," which runs through northern Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. But it's in the Midwest, which is a prime breeding ground for these monster storms. In August, 1990, a historic twister hit the towns of Plainfield and Joliet, just ten miles or so from our little town of Romeoville. I was in 6th grade, and I remember that afternoon like it was yesterday...

I remember I walked home alone that day. My older sister was home sick, and my younger sister was still in elementary school at the time. There was a breeze, I recall - a hot breeze. It was very hot and humid that day, and you could almost smell a storm coming. I looked at the sky as I went and noticed how strange it looked. It was a yellowish-green. Very eerie. But I didn't think much about it beyond that. By the time I got home, the color of the sky had changed to a stormy grey, almost black. My younger sister had just arrived home when the power went out and the sirens blared. We had no basement in our house, so we gathered in the bathroom and tried to comfort each other. It wasn't easy, considering my older sister is phobic about bad weather. She screamed and cried until the sirens finally stopped. We came out after a few minutes to find the house still standing. No visible damage to our yard, or to us, thank God.

Little did we know what was happening just a short distance away...

It wasn't until later that night, after power was restored, that we saw the news and learned what had happened. My father, who was a city worker for the nearby town of Naperville, was part of the recovery and cleanup crew. He took us to see the devastation up-close, not to glamorize it, but to show us the devastating power that Mother Nature can unleash. It's something I remember to this very day. I don't have my own pictures to show, but in my mind I can still picture the school buses overturned and crushed like tin cans. Most vividly in my mind are the trees - some of them twisted into grotesque corkscrew shapes, so of them with their giant roots sticking straight up from where they'd been ripped out of the ground. I remember seeing the trunk of a tree that had a playing card embedded in it. Those are images you can't forget. 

These pictures below are from press material taken in the days after. Because of the suddenness of the storm and the manner in which it approached (It was wrapped in a rainstorm), few images of the tornado itself were ever recorded. For the most part, there are only pictures of the devastation it left behind...

The path of destruction, and two rare images of the twister
St. Mary's Church and School in Plainfield
Plainfield High School

 After experiences such as these, some people may wonder why anyone would want to see a movie like "Into The Storm." Some may think that such a traumatic experience would make a person terrified of anything to do with severe weather. That may be the case with some, and rightly so. (Just ask my sister). But it's a strange thing living with these forces of nature. Growing up with them, we learn to look out for them. We're drilled in school about them. (Duck and cover practices are part of our collective childhood memories). In a sense, we learn not to FEAR them as much as to RESPECT them. We're educated about them almost from birth, and some of us go so far as to study them. My father, being a city worker, was trained to spot them, and as I grew up I found the phenomenon of tornado chasing/spotting to be thrilling. To this day, when a storm rises and the warnings blare, I get an excited chill up my spine. I know the danger associated with these storms, and that's what gets me. I would LOVE to get up close and personal with a tornado...but believe me, I know the difference between fantasy and reality. I know when to head to the basement, or to the inner-most room of my house. (The bathroom is the safest place, by the way.)

That's why I can't wait to see this movie. Richard Armitage is merely a bonus for me in this. (I hope he lives in this one. LIVE, Garry Morris. LIVE!) I can sit in a movie theater, safe and sound with my big box of popcorn, and get up close and personal with the most destructive force on earth. I can feel the chill up my spine when those sirens blare. I can scream and gasp, and just go along for the ride, and when it's all over, and I can walk out thrilled but unscathed.

Hopefully, into a sunny August afternoon. :)

If you want to learn more about the Plainfield Twister, there is an informative article on Wikipedia...


  1. I admit I'm not attracted by movies on natural havocs, and I probably won't go to the theatre to watch "Into the Storm".
    I'm very much impressed by your tale and the pictures you posted. How heartbreaking to lose lives, memories and workplaces in few seconds.

  2. Everthing look different when you are near. We are here always worried about that they call now "explosive ciclogenesys" (or something like that). We have floods panic. It is scaring to feel you can't control your car because water lifts It up.