Voice of 1967 Tornado: Residents of the Chicago Metro Area Will Never Forget

While residents of the Lincoln-Way communities reflect on recent floods, we also know that it could have been far worse. On April 21, 1967, an F4 tornado touched down in Oak Lawn.

In the aftermath of torrential downpours and flooding endured by the Chicago metropolitan region, we know that it could have been far worse. Today marks the 46th anniversary of Black Friday, the name that symbolizes the loss of life and property caused by an F4 tornado that touched down in Oak Lawn.

Robert Kehe, manager of the Coral Theater in Oak Lawn and the father of six children, stepped outside onto 95th Street and Cicero Avenue to record the start of a thunderstorm on his reel-to-reel tape recorder.

Lorraine Swanson, local editor of Oak Lawn Patch, uncovered a tape recording of the devastating tornado and created and "Encore" feature story about that tragic day.   

Instead he captured the sound of the worst tornado ever to hit the immediate Chicago area, which many believed immune to twisters because of its close proximity to Lake Michigan. 

For five terrifying minutes, Kehe recorded the sound and the fury of the Oak Lawn Tornado as it hurled overhead in an east-northeast direction three blocks north from where he stood in front of the Coral.

In the end, the tornado would claim 37 lives. In five minutes time, it wiped out huge swaths of the community, including the Jewel grocery store, which was packed with customers shopping for Easter dinner that year. Homes and schools were completely destroyed.  

Turn to Oak Lawn Patch to hear the actual Voice of a Tornado.

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Ann McCarthy April 21, 2013 at 10:28 PM
My husband and I did not know each other back in 1967. We were both in high school, but he lived in Orland Park,IL and I lived in Midlothian, IL. On April 21, 1967 we were both in Oak Lawn,IL when the F4 tornado hit. My husband was on his high school track team, and was at Oak Lawn High School for a track meet when the tornado struck and I was at my Uncle's wake in a funeral home on Kedzie Avenue. Listening to the sound of the tornado that Mr. Robert Kehe recorded on that day was very chilling. I remember how bright the sky was right before the tornado came and how pitch black it became while it was passing overhead. I will never forget what Oak Lawn looked like after the tornado. May all those who lost their lives that day rest in peace. Ann M. Mokena,IL
Denise Jones April 22, 2013 at 12:48 PM
It was my sister's Sweet 16 birthday. The sky turned a dark green color. As the wind began picking up speed, half the family was on the back porch (2 sides of windows) and my mom was looking out the front window to see what was making such a rumbling noise. Only the dog was scratching at the basement door, trying to get downstairs. We were lucky. My grade school (St. Gerald) and my sisters' high school (OLCHS) were destroyed. We had been there only a few hours earlier. I'm OK with most storms now, unless the sky goes green. Denise (Ray) Jones, Lombard, IL


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