REVERE — When the dark and the rumbling came, Mildred Lepito got out of bed and was blown backward into the hallway of her home on Carleton Street, the home where she has lived for 98 of her 102 years, and in the shadows she could see the roof of her kitchen swirling off into the sky.
As she got her bearings, she looked through what had been the kitchen ceiling and saw sky. At her feet, she could feel an inch of water as the rain cascaded down on her head.
“I couldn’t believe the debris and the destruction,” she said. In her years on Carleton Street, the only thing that had come close to this, she said, was a hurricane in 1938 that took down all the lovely oak trees.
When the dark and the rumbling came through Taft Street a mile away, Barbara Cardone ran to her hallway and realized there was no time to get to the basement. So she squeezed her 7-year-old son, John, tight as she could and told him it was going to be OK, even if she didn’t entirely believe it herself.
When the dark and the rumbling came over Revere Beach Parkway, Melissa Caraballo dashed to the door of the senior day care center where she works and frantically rushed everyone inside. As she tried to pull the door shut, she could see the roof of the house across the street begin to disintegrate, the shingles flying “like someone had thrown a deck of cards into the air.”
When the dark and the rumbling tore through Mountain Avenue, Maria Maniscalco raced to wake her 7-year-old daughter. There was no need. They met in the hallway and held each other tight as the lights around them popped and the noise surrounded the house, a noise she had never heard before, “like something was trying to suck the house into the sky.”
Then, just as suddenly, it was over. They were all alive. And they were all certain of one thing: That was not a tornado, because tornadoes do not come to Revere, Mass.
That’s something that happens elsewhere.
But as they emerged from their homes, the four women and thousands of other residents of this coastal city just north of Boston discovered a scene that defied belief: a 2-mile long path of destruction that was indeed the work of a tornado, the first to touch the ground here in at least six decades.
As the wind subsided, what it left behind became clearer.
Maniscalco’s sister was trapped in her house next door by a fallen tree, and after they were able to get her out unharmed, they went to the street and joined their neighbors. “There were so many people out it felt like a parade,” she said. And there, as a group, they began to wonder if the unthinkable had just happened, if a tornado had just hit the urban East Coast.
At the senior day care center, the power was out and many of the seniors were rattled, but save for a bit of damage to the roof, the concrete building had held strong.
As the seniors and staff emerged to look around, they found something that many took as a divine sign: a large wooden cross, planted by the tornado in the mud just outside the back door.
“God made miracles for people who don’t believe,” said Olga Torres, one of the seniors.
When Cardone and her son got their first glimpse of Taft Street, they were stunned. A giant tree in their backyard had been uprooted and had torn through their roof. Another tree had crushed their car. John’s playhouse had gone from the backyard to who knows where. Their neighbors spent the day bringing it back, in pieces, and piling it on her lawn.
As John saw the destruction, he became more shaken.
The surgical strike of the funnel cloud had torn through some homes and left others largely untouched. Two of the neighbors’ houses were all but destroyed. At the corner, a yard held pieces of the roof of the Cronin Ice Rink, which is 300 yards away and across a busy parkway.
Yet across the street from the Cardones’ house, the impatiens on their neighbor’s porch still looked immaculate in their pots, ready for a flower show.
John kept asking his mother questions. “Why did it only happen here? Is it going to happen again?”
And his mother continued to hug him tight and reassure him.
“You and mumma are OK,” she told him again and again. “That’s all that matters.”
Billy Baker can be reached at email@example.com.