It was an event that changed the community of Tracy forever. The tornado that struck Tracy on June 13, 1968, and claimed the lives of nine people should always be remembered, a group of local residents say.
"It touched a lot of people's lives," Tracy resident Sue Ann Moyars said of the destruction.
That's why the group is working to raise money for updates to the city's tornado memorial.
"We kind of started the discussion this past summer," said Peggi Peterson, the chairwoman of the memorial committee. Peterson was one of several Tracy residents who noticed how much the current tornado memorial had deteriorated over time. The residents formed a committee to build a new monument to stand next to the "Tornado Tree" sculpture along U.S. Highway 14 in Tracy.
A donkey basketball fundraiser for the memorial will be on Feb. 14, at the Veterans Memorial Center in downtown Tracy.
Peterson said the idea to update the tornado memorial came partly from local residents who volunteered to clean up the area around Highway 14 in preparation for Box Car Days. Peterson said what the volunteers saw was saddening. Concrete and bricks at the memorial were in poor condition, and plaques bearing the names of the people killed in the tornado were illegible or missing.
"You just stood there for a few seconds, wondering how we let it get this bad," Peterson said. "It was just one of those things that nobody paid attention to."
The group approached Moyars, who is a local representative for New Ulm Monument, about a monument for the memorial site. As it turned out, Moyars had already sketched designs for one.
Moyars said she had been thinking about a tornado monument after the city had mentioned the idea two years ago.
"My parents were in the 1968 tornado, so it's something I have near to me," Moyars said. "It affected not only the people who lived through the tornado, but it also affected the community and future generations."
Moyars envisioned a triangular monument made of black granite, with etchings on all three sides to give different views from the front and back of the memorial. The apex of the monument would have bronzed clock faces stopped at 7:04, like a clock found in the debris of the Tracy school building destroyed by the tornado.
Peterson said the committee hopes to have the memorial completed in time for the 45th anniversary of the tornado this June. But in order to do that, it needs to raise about $7,000 - half the cost of the monument - by March 1.
"That's our best shot for having it here and in place by June," Peterson said. The group has currently raised about $1,500. "Every donation helps."
To help raise money for the tornado memorial, a donkey basketball fundraiser will be at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 14, at the Veterans Memorial Center in Tracy. Four teams made up of area residents will face off against each other, Peterson said. Tickets will be $8 at the door, or $6 in advance. Preschoolers are admitted free. Peterson said tickets are available at John's Drug, Tracy Food Pride, Midwest Supply and at the Tracy city office.