Editor's Note: Jim Willis is a former staff writer. He was in Midwest City on Monday to be inducted into the Midwest City High School Wall of Fame and was one of 700 people evacuated to the field house. Willis is a journalism professor at the University of Memphis.
By Jim Willis
Two signal events provided the
drama in Midwest City on Monday
night. One was the evacuation of
700 parents, students and other
honorees attending an awards ceremony at Midwest City High
The other was the tornado.
Left in its wake was a city without power but loaded with debris.
Midwest City had not suffered a
serious tornado in the past half-
For the 500 at Midwest City High
School, the school's jazz band was
just finding its groove, old friends
were embracing, and the fun was
Principal Rick Bachman was at
His calm voice belied his concern when he made the announcement.
"The band reminds us of the music on the Titanic, but we don't
want to be like the Titanic, so let's
quietly and orderly leave this
building and walk over to the field
At table after table, smiles dissolved into quizzical looks. Bachman went on.
"We have just received word
that a tornado has been spotted on
the city's west side, so just to be
safe, let's move on to the field
While some guests could not be
deterred from their $8 dinners,
most of the 700 did exactly as Bachman asked.
In the field house, some mingled
in the hallways, others took seats.
A few moments later, the court
was lit, and a few hundred spilled
out into it. Some students found a
basketball and began shooting
"This is pretty eerie," one student said. "It's like we're in a
bomb shelter waiting for the
In a coach's office, many
huddled around a television featuring a live account of the approaching tornado.
Tinker Field and Midwest City
were in its sights.
"Oh my God," uttered John Solomon who had shown up to see a
friend's daughter honored. The
sentiment was repeated several
times as you passed through the
"Fifty years and no real tornados; now this," another woman
whispered to her husband.
Cecelia Powell, who came to see
her brother inducted to the
school's Wall of Fame, appeared in
the locker room with a chunk of
hail the size of a tennis ball.