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Newly discovered color photos provide intimate look at '53 Waco tornado

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Posted at 7:17 PM, Jan 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 23:03:12-05

Just after 4 p.m. on May 11, 1953, Waco changed forever.

One of the deadliest tornadoes in Texas history and the 11th deadliest ever in the U.S. hit downtown Waco. The storm killed 114 people.

Now, an accidental find gives us a new look at the damage left behind. 

Christian Harper remembers hearing about the 1953 Waco tornado from her aunt and grandmother.

"It was just a devastating time. They went through a lot," said Harper.

A memorial downtown commemorates the 114 people who died. But what one family discovered in an old metal box, provides a whole new look at the disaster.

Filmmaker Damon Crump found the largest known cache of color slides of the Waco tornado, shot by his father, Tommy.

"Looked at a few of them and we go, 'hey some of these look like a lot of destruction' and after two or three of them I went 'hey, I wonder if these could be from the old Waco tornado,'” said Crump. 

He verified his conclusion by identifying old buildings through the help of people who lived through it.

It shows massive destruction of old brick and frame buildings. The slides also show the shocked faces of survivors as they take stock of the damage.

These days, you won't find much evidence of the damage caused by the 1953 tornado, but in one place, you can. The lighter colored bricks on the side of the Dr Pepper Museum show where workers restored the building.

The slides also show huge piles of rubble on top of cars with many people trapped inside.

Even buildings that seemed sturdy upon closer inspection, showed damage.

"It's just a really small slice of life of that one event that the color photographs give it a new perspective versus old black and white photos that everyone's seen,” said Crump.

He says he's not sure what he'll do with the pictures. He'd like to see someone publish them in a book. 

For now, he'll post a few at a time on social media. The color pictures make the disaster seem more real, he says.

"Yeah, it does really, you just see Waco in a different perspective,” Harper said.

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