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Dozens pause to remember the '53 Beecher tornado

70 years ago, a powerful F5 tornado leveled parts of Flint and Beecher.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
70 years ago, a powerful F5 tornado leveled parts of Flint and Beecher.

About 50 people stood silent, as trumpeter played taps, during Thursday’s observance of the 70th anniversary of the Beecher tornado.

The powerful F5 tornado cut a half-mile path through Flint’s northside and into the small community of Beecher on June 8,1953. 116 people died, with hundreds more injured. The Beecher tornado remains the tenth deadliest tornado in U.S. history.

Wayne Butler was 15 years old when the tornado leveled his home. He says the tornado inflicted more than death and destruction on Beecher.

“Took the soul right out of it,” said Butler. “Yeah, it was a very traumatic deal.”

Civic leaders have restored a memorial to the dead.

Many of those who attended Thursday’s ceremonies were children in 1953. Others the adult children of survivors born years after the catastrophe. Many raised concerns that the Beecher tornado is fading from memory.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.