XENIA — Xenians took a look at their city and the “gigantic task ahead” after a twister demolished homes and businesses and schools 44 years ago today.
The following story was written by Editor Jack Jordan, published in the Xenia Daily Gazette April 4, 1974.
Xenians, grateful to be alive, took a look at their beloved city estimated to be at least half devastated, and began the gargantuan task of putting together a community again.
Xenians bereaved by dead or missing relatives and friends were coming back from their shock and trying to keep busy today.
The massive tornado left a lifetime imprint on those who experienced the terror. The casualties will mount over the next several days, it is believed.
Hundreds of millions of dollars’ damage is more comprehensible to Xenians than the appearance. This city wouldn’t have looked any worse if a major battle in a war had raged through its confines.
This city never has known adversity of this magnitude; few communities have.
Digging out, patching up, rebuilding and shaping a new face downtown and in residential areas and shopping districts will require years.
Ohio’s Gov. John J. Gilligan, here several hours last night, pledged whatever state assistance is available immediately; certainly massive assistance efforts will come from federal disaster agencies.
Aside from the many Xenians killed or injured, the tornado didn’t discriminate. It leveled new brick homes on slabs and it literally tore asunder big old homes that had stood for a half century and more.
Xenia High School was demolished, so was Warner Junior High and the city’s other intermediate building, Central Junior High, was windowless and perhaps structurally damaged. Only grade schools in untouched residential areas remained.
This community of commuters, not known as an industrial center, lost much of its West Side industry — from the Kroehler Mfg. Co.’s furniture plant on through brand new plants such as Tremac Corp., left in ruins.
Downtown business was shattered; many buildings will have to come the rest of the way down. Fringe shopping centers were eliminated, particularly Kennedy Korners in the West Side.
The Daily Gazette, for the first time in its 106-year history, was printed today outside its own plant — by the sister operation, the Middletown Journal. The Gazette’s downtown plant, battered and scarred, can return to vital communication operations once gas-fired metal furnaces are safe to function.
The Greene County Museum and Historical Complex, at the north end of the downtown district, is in ruins but Greene County’s Carnegie District Library two blocks away seemed to have escaped the brunt.
St. Brigid Catholic Church, the city’s largest denomination, was rubble; badly damaged were other churches, notably the Church of the Nazarene at the swath’s entrance into the city.
As observers last night, we witnessed the chaos of law enforcement, safety and rescue units come from all over the state to seek out the injured, move in on the “sick” who appear swiftly to loot, and then establishment of some semblance of order.
This morning the chains of command were beginning to shape up, admittedly for a concentrated effort to gain control an apply priorities.
It was heartening. It was sound, sensible leadership headed by City Manager Bob Stewart. There is no other course than to comply and cooperate.
Only in that way will Xenia come alive again.
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