Remembering the Storm: Newspaper accounts document horrific tales
Published 10:32 pm Friday, December 1, 2023
The staff of Vicksburg’s local newspaper, The Post-Herald worked diligently in gathering information and taking photographs from the aftermath of a massive tornado that rolled across the Mississippi River on Dec. 5, 1953. The newspaper received the Pulitzer Prize for local reporting of the 1953 storm that left behind total mayhem and destruction and killed 38 people.
Survivor accounts were printed shortly after the deadly storm in Vicksburg Evening Post and Post-Herald editions as well as from other news outlets across the state told of horrific scenes and terrible experiences. The stories resonate as much today as they did 70 years ago:
“Child Tells Of Destruction Of Saenger Theatre”
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Twelve-year-old Dalton Glatt, brushed death tonight in a movie theater.
He was one of 34 boys and girls engaged in the American pastime of watching a Saturday night movie in the Saenger Theater in Vicksburg.
He was sitting on the back of his spine, relaxed, and enjoying himself with his brother, Robert, 9.
Suddenly the screen on which unwound a drama from Hollywood began to whip and quiver. The building shook and a great roaring drowned out the words of the hero.
Dalton sat up straight. He looked from side to side. Others were doing the same thing.
“I saw the wall falling in.” Dalton said later. “I jumped under a seat.”
He winced in pain as a doctor worked with his broken arm.
“I thought my brother, Robert had jumped under too,” he said after a little.
The doctor grimaced as if he had the broken arm. He opened his mouth, then closed it without words.
Robert didn’t make it under the seat. He was killed by the falling wall.
But, no one could bring himself to tell Dalton.
“Only Nine Years Old, He looked Like an Old Man”
Roger Powers is only nine years old. But his eyes tonight looked dead with the dullness you see sometimes in old men.
Roger got that look in 15 minutes inside Vicksburg’s Saenger Theater tonight. It was Vicksburg’s tornado look.
His voice was clear, however, when he said:
“I was in the from row when the roof fell in.”
He paused for a second, his eyes wandering here and there, one hand going to the bandage that covered a big gash on his head. His other hand was clutched tightly in the comforting hand of his mother.
“It pinned me under the seats with a lot of other guys. It seemed like a long time before they pulled me out. Just my head was sticking out.”
Those shocked eyes watched his mother. Roger was quiet now, but his mother’s anguished face told the story of that twitching body they pulled from the wreckage of the Saenger.
The boy’s voice rose again. “The men came and began digging me out. When they dug out my seat, they found another guy.”
The voice rose a bit, hysteria haunting it. “Just his hand was sticking out. “He was dead, I think.”
“No he wasn’t,” replied his mother as her son’s voice died away.
She looked at reporters and you knew she lied.
“Through Twister In Hair Dryer… Mrs. Platte Tells of Beauty Shop Horror”
Mrs. Steven Platte can now give a fairly accurate description of how it feels to ride out a tornado under the hood of a beauty shop hair dryer.
Mrs. Platte said she had just taken her seat at Bell’s Beauty shop when Saturday’s tornado struck.
“All of a sudden, the building started rocking and the lights went out. I was thrown to the floor and things began falling around me. I thought the Russians had dropped the atomic bomb.”
The terrible noise stopped as quickly as it had started. The building which had trembled and groaned suddenly was still.
In the darkness she felt herself.
“Everything was okay— arms, legs, body, even the last hairpin.”
But the dryer?
“I never looked back to see.”