It was ten years ago Wednesday that three tornadoes formed here in town one tearing across the Del Mar west campus and killing an instructor there. Today, James 'Buster' Gillis was remembered as a hero for his actions that day in protecting his students.
The three twisters all formed within ten minutes of each other just after the lunch hour.
The first tornado went across farmland and vanished.
But, number 2 tore across the Del Mar west campus where Gillis was prepared. He had told his math students to get under their desks and lie flat on the ground.
Soon, the tornado was bearing down on the campus and the twister picked up a portable building and slammed it into the side of the learning resources building.
That's where Gillis had his students taking cover.
Unfortunately, while Gillis was able to save the lives of his students, he had hidden near that collapsed wall and was killed. Today there's a plaque in his memory inside the entrance to the building.
One of his friends and colleague's says there's no doubt, he was a hero on that day. Joe Livingston is now the Chairman of Technical Education. "Well he is if it wasn't for him I know there could have been more deaths and certainly more injuries if he hadn't given them the warning to get under the desk, not just sit at the desk, but to get under the desk, some of the desks were actually bent from debris hitting on the desk."
The tornado did a lot of damage to the school and 14 people ended up injured by the twister.
In all, the 3 tornadoes caused 1 death and 26 injuries. The cost in dollars to buildings and equipment was over 85 million bucks.
Now, that third tornado we mentioned formed right after the second one disappeared. Number 3 heavily damaged the HEB on Leopard and the post office next door. The twister then headed to refinery row and caused a lot of damage there to the Citgo refinery.
Mr. Livingston told us that he had no idea that today was the 10th anniversary of the deadly tornado.
He added that almost every single time he passes the building on his way to his campus office, he thinks about what happened and he thinks about the sacrifice his friend and fellow instructor Buster Gillis made on that day.
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