An Architect, A Map and A Vision
In 2018, a group of community members came together to ignite a project which pays tribute to a collective Lubbock experience – the May 11, 1970 tornado. This was the first recorded F5 storm which tore through a downtown area. The tornado destroyed most homes in the Guadalupe Neighborhood, businesses throughout downtown and created mass property damage. The worst toll was for the families of the 26 people who lost their lives. Countless other people were hurt and injured; many people still bare those injuries from that night.
As the 50th Anniversary drew near in 2020, a committed group of private citizens in partnership with the City of Lubbock began to envision a Memorial fitting to the magnitude of the event. Led by Robert Taylor (United Supermarkets) and Dan Williams (Williams and Co. Real Estate), the committee began to raise funds to make the vision a reality. The design of the Memorial is based upon the famed Fujita Drawings, by Dr. Ted Fujita. Days after the storm, he flew over Lubbock to track and record the damage, creating a new way of assessing the power of a tornado. There are differing opinions on the accuracy of the 1970 drawings, but regardless, they were based upon the science of the time and represented the damage patterns. The F scale, which measures the strength of a tornado, was born from the 1970 Lubbock tornado. Subsequently, the Wind Institute at Texas Tech University was founded due to the study of the power and winds of this storm.
MWM Architect Stephen Faulk (pictured) used these drawings (referred to as the Fujita Drawings and held in the Southwest Collection at Texas Tech University) as his inspiration for the Memorial site. Along with the drawings, a memory of Faulk’s bride-to-be driving away as the storm barreled in gave birth to the unique new architectural entryway for the Lubbock Cultural District.
The location of the Memorial was chosen to be downtown, the heart of the community and one of the areas that the storm wreaked severe devastation. The features of the Tornado Memorial include two granite walls which are a three-dimensional representation of the paths Dr. Fujita drew on top of a map depicting the streets of Lubbock in 1970. The walls contain the names of those lost, quotes from eyewitnesses and words from victim’s families. Under the walls and between, is a map of the Lubbock of 1970 – transporting the visitor to the locations in Lubbock as the storm tore through. A fountain represents the sounds of rain and water. The Memorial’s key purpose is to tell future generations what happened that night and educate them on how Lubbock recovered from the tragedy, including the science which came from that storm. Things we take for granted today such as safe rooms were a result of the chaos of May 11, 1970.
In addition, Faulk felt it was important to represent the rebirth of Lubbock through a beautiful landscaping plan which includes flower beds and an orchard with blooming trees in spring. Lights by renowned artist Aaron Stephan, show the five movements of the storm and recovery. Every element of the memorial is thoughtful and shares the story of the tornado, the devastation and the rebirth of a community.
The Memorial opened May 11, 2021 as a labor of love from a community for those who experienced that night and this private public project is meant to be a unique landmark for Lubbock and set it apart from any other city. Most importantly, though it is to ensure that what happened on the night of May 11, 1970 and the precious lives who were lost will never be forgotten. To read more about the tornado, visit Lubbock – Tornado (lubbocktornado1970.com).