Central Mass. Marks Anniversary of Tragic Tornado

(NECN: Siobhan Lopez) - Flipping through a June 1953 newspaper, Phyllis Joseph remembers the tornado that tore through Central Massachusetts.

Joseph and her sister were among the more than 1,000 people injured. They were outside their Great Brook Valley apartment - as soon as they took shelter, the tornado had already arrived.

"My sister was crying for me to let her in, and I couldn't, the suction was so great, I couldn't let her," said Joseph. "Then the ceiling went, and I was flying around up in the sky."

Joseph says a man picked her up and drove her to the hospital.

Her mother was at work and didn't know where her girls were. Like many parents, she spent the hours following the tornado going to makeshift morgues to see if her children had died.

"What they were doing is they were listing all of the people who were missing and presumed dead over the radio," said Joseph. "And I kept hearing my name, and I kept screaming, 'I'm not dead! I'm here! I'm here!'"

Joseph had surgeries to repair severed tendons in her arm and remove glass, sand and steel that were lodged in her body.

Her sister's injuries were more serious.

"Nine months in the hospital, the longest tornado patient in the hospital," said Joseph.

There were many photos and films taken of the damage. The Burncoat neighborhood of Worcester was hit hard - Henry Ekberg captured rare color film of the damage.

"He grabbed his camera his movie camera and he went out and started filming," said Kathy Lundstrom, Ekberg's daughter.

Lundstrom says her dad would show them the film every summer and recount the events of that day.

"They went down the basement, they thought it was the end of the world," she said. "They never heard of a tornado in Worcester."

Many did not know it was a tornado, including Joseph. But now, she knows it can happen anywhere.

"Now, when I see all these tragedies in the Midwest, you can feel it," she said. "You know what they're going through."

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