La Plata, MD Tornado Rips school, Nov 1926

15 Dead, 20 Hurt, As Storm Wrecks La Plata School

Bodies Of Children Found Impaled Against Fences.


La Plata, Md., Nov. 10 (AP) – This little town of 500 souls stooped in sorrow today to take up again the usual placid threads of its existence which were sheared suddenly yesterday afternoon by the wrath of a tornado that wreaked havoc and destruction along a path at times 500 yards wide through a portion of Southern Maryland, killing 15 and injuring two-score, mostly school children here, and severely injuring four more at Cedarville, 14 miles northeast of here.
Sweeping up from the Potomac, the disturbance swooped and twisted intermittently, but concentrated its fury upon the schoolhouse here where 61 pupils, teachers and attendants were gathered. Eleven of the children were killed and most of the others injured when the wooden walls of the building were seized and flung flat.
At least a dozen other farm houses and barns in the path were leveled to the earth and the damage was estimate at thousands of dollars.
Out of the chaos and welter in the wake of the whimsical, wrathful winds, there came today stories of heroism, stoicism and a queer intermingling of humor in the tale of the tragedy.
JOHN MARSHALL BURR, a hysterical 11-year-old figure with blood streaming from his wounds, ran from the schoolhouse resounding with the screams of wounded and imprisoned, to the home of Rev. W. S. HEIGHAM, Episcopal rector.
“Please telephone everybody,” he sobbed in fear and pain, “the whole schoolhouse has blown away.”
Almost all the population of the town followed the boy to the top of the knoll where the school had stood, but stood no longer. Its contents, human and inanimate, were strewn over a radius of more than a quarter of a mile.
Some of the children had been blown at least 750 feet. Other bodies were impaled against some tree in mute evidence of the storm's devastation.
There had been, according to MISS ETHEL GRAVES, 22-year-old teacher of the elementary class, which consisted of 33 of the younger children, no warning and no time to anticipate or avoid the shock.
MISS MARY CARPENTER, sat crying at her post in the telephone office. No relief was possible – the tragedy had bereft her of her associate in the exchange.
Immediately after the storm struck, she set to work to get into communication with Washington and neighboring points. She succeeded and aid in the form of ambulances and medical assistance was dispatched immediately from the capital: most of the dangerously injured were transferred to Washington hospitals, where subsequently four of them, children, died.
Through some quirk the tornado avoided the center of La Plata, which embraces only four square-blocks.

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