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Plainfield Tornado Survivors Say Time, Patience Will Help Heal Hard-Hit Illinois Communities

An F-5 tornado struck the Village of Plainfield in August, 1990. (CBS)

An F-5 tornado struck the Village of Plainfield in August, 1990. (CBS)

Dorothy Tucker Dorothy Tucker
Dorothy Tucker has served as a reporter for CBS 2 Chicago since 1984....
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(CBS) – It’s hard to forget one of the worst tornadoes in Illinois history that occurred in Plainfield on Aug. 28, 1990.

Twenty-eight people lost their lives and 350 were injured. Hundreds of homes and businesses were leveled, and the town’s only high school was flattened.

“There was no ceiling, no walls,” teacher Peggy Francik tells CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker.

Francik walks the halls of the current high school. The same area was once covered with debris.

“You just picture the whole thing — the school, the building, the friends you lost,” she says.

For more than two years, students and teachers were forced to hold classes in a Catholic school in neighboring Joliet. Patience and support is the advice Francik has for the latest Illinois tornado victims in Washington, Diamond, and Coal City.

“We had a community come together to help us rebuild and bring in supplies, and I see that being done for those towns,” she says.

Pat Frazier still has photos of the of the shell that was left after the tornado wiped out most of her two-bedroom home. It’s still painful.

“They’ll come back, just like I did,” Frazier says.

Today, she has a bigger two-bedroom house with a basement, which comes in handy during the holidays.

“It was a blessing in disguise, I guess,” Frazier says.

The tornado in Plainfield was one of the deadliest in our history.

The warning sirens did not go off until the tornado was practically on top of the community.

The problem: the technology at the time did not recognize the approaching tornado until it was too late. Since then, the village has a tornado drill, with sirens blaring, every first Tuesday of the month.