Barbara Connolly was working at the Kettering Memorial Hospital (near Dayton, Ohio) as a social worker intern when the 1974 Super Outbreak occurred. She remembers leaving the hospital just as the tornado struck. The hospital told her to go home and return the next day because her role would be more critical the next day.
Connolly described the scene as being under control and not chaotic. They knew what to do and told everyone where they needed to be and what was needed. She said, "You're used to seeing the halls all cleared and when I walked in they were filled with victims."
She was assigned to the halls of the hospital helping the victims where one stuck out the most, a young girl who was separated from her parents and lost their home in the tornado.
"Her family was sent to a different hospital, so I stayed with her and comforted her. The girl clutched her doll and was so scared. I remember feeling so helpless, I couldn't ease her pain" Connolly said.
Connolly went on to explain the magnitude of the situation, "When you aren't at the scene of the tornado you don't know how serious of a situation it is until you get to the hospital and see the victims. Realizing how seriously hurt so many people were was overwhelming."
Communication was different in 1974 from what it is today. "There were no cell phones or texting for people to get in contact with their families like there is today."
The 1974 Super Outbreak left an impact on Connolly's life. "A tragedy like that sticks with you, you have to experience it first hand to realize what an impact a tornado has on the families involved. I admired their resilience to get back to their normal lives and rebuild their community."
This year's iconic spruce comes from a backyard 170 miles away.