Researching the tornado of June 9, 1953

I am in the planning stages of a rather long book about the life of a house. The story takes place in the fictitious town of Quinsigamond, MA. Anyone who knows the area will easy recognize it as take on my hometown of Shrewsbury, MA. I am changing some of the topography and making the town smaller to serve the novel’s purposes. Shrewsbury is far too large and industrious for my uses.

Damage at Assumption College (now Quinsigamond Community College) Picture credit: Worcester Historical Museum

Right now, I am working on two fronts – planning out the plot and doing research on the four historical periods covered in the manuscript. One of the major events in the book will be the hurricane of June 9, 1953. My parents were kids at the time so I grew up being told stories of the destruction they witnessed in the area.  94 people were killed and over 1200 people were injured. It was a capricious storm. For instance, the detached garage of the house I grew up in was destroyed, but the house itself was unharmed.

I came across the picture shown here and realized that the building that was damaged is next to the building I took a class in when I was a senior in high school. Many beautiful building were destroyed or damaged. The house in my book will survive the storm, but will never be the same. The research has been fascinating and I frequently have to remind myself that I don’t need to know everything about that day, just enough to understand what people were feeling. Did anything happen in your hometown that you have researched? What did you learn?

If you’d like to know more about the events of June 9, 1953, Edgar B. Herwick III recently did a wonderful piece on the hurricane for WGBH. I encourage you to take a listen.