Rochester Tornado Anniversary Marked with Personal Tribute

August 21, 2018 07:13 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- It was a vision of devastation. On Tuesday, August 21, 1883, a catastrophic tornado ripped through Rochester.


“It landed at about where Apache Mall is located now and cut its way through downtown as we know it today,” said Matthew Dacy, Director of the Heritage Hall Museum of Mayo Clinic. “Houses seemed to explode, grain silos toppled over, railroad cars were tossed about in the wind.”


A third of the city was destroyed and about 40 people were initially killed. However, many more later died from injuries suffered from the storm.

Including Doug Hansen’s great-grandfather, Nels Hanson [Nels’ family name was later changed to Hansen].

“I think they knew from the beginning that his injuries were more serious than the rest of the families,” said Doug. “They were all injured; it seems the whole family had head injuries of sorts.”

On the tornado's 135th anniversary, Doug wanted to do something special to honor his great-grandfather and all those who lost their lives or suffered injuries that fateful day. So the Michigan resident made a trip to Rochester to pay tribute the best way he knew how. “I do therapeutic music with people in the hospital and hospice settings,” he said.

Doug played in a hospital setting again Tuesday afternoon … this time at Mayo Clinic. “There were a few times where I had to fight back the tears I have to admit,” he said. “It caught me off guard that I would feel that overcome with emotion.”

Doug only knew his great-grandfather through documents and newspaper clippings. “But over time and getting to know their stories, all of the sudden they become part of you too,” he said. “So there is this wonderful time of reconnection.”

“We look ahead also,” said Matthew, “and great good came from that storm because the Mayo’s and the Franciscans came together. From the wreckage of the city, from these ruined lives  ... this determination to go forward and help other people is still serving us today.”


Hannah Tiede

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