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Survivor remembers 1959 tornado on 60th anniversary

The 1959 tornado killed 21 and injured 300 others. But for the ones who made it out untouched, surviving it is something they'll never forget.

ST. LOUIS — Sixty years ago, a deadly tornado ripped through St. Louis killing 21 people and injuring more than 300 others.

But for the ones who made it out untouched, surviving it is something they'll never forget.

"It just jumped right over, it just leaped, it leaped right over it and then when it leaped right over it, it came down a few blocks over but it spared our place," said Carl Sapp, a native St. Louisan. 

Sapp said he was only 2-years-old when the historic 1959 tornado ripped through St. Louis.

Sixty years later, his memory of it still as sharp as a knife.

"Buildings were demolished, I saw a whole side of a building it was just, it was a mess down there, oh man," said Sapp.

Sapp lived near the intersection of Gibson and Boyle at the time. The tornado touched down around 2 a.m. It started on Manchester Road before making its way to Boyle, Olive, Page and Grand.

"We got lucky there that night, oh man we were lucky that night," Sapp said. "Just never heard of it, we slept right through it because I'm a sound sleeper and we slept right through it. (laughs) It's been 60 years." 

Many dreaming St. Louisans, like Sapp, had no idea they were waking up to a nightmare.

"The weather was calm and they didn't have that predicted. That thing wasn't even predicted. They had no warnings or nothing."

But for survivors it's the near misses that will stick with them forever.

"One guy was in his bathroom, and when he's getting up to go to the bathroom there the wall came down. But some of the buildings survived but they were damaged."

Most people remember several iconic images.

Like the communications tower that was knocked down, and a chunk of the old arena that looks like someone reached down and carved a large piece of it out.

"We had one storm here five years ago, and my sister Pat and my brother Kevin, we all went down to the basement, I said Kevin I survived one in 1959, I said if one comes, I ain't gonna go through that again, no replay," Sapp said.

The tornado also damaged Gaslight Square, a popular hangout for artists, musicians, and nightlife until the late 1960s.

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