Editor’s Note:

As the anniversary of the 1968 tornado draws closer the Greenwood Democrat will be featuring stories of survivors that are not included in the upcoming magazine due to the limitations of space and time.

Rusty Mizell, son of Roy and Yvonne Mizell, was in the fourth grade on April 19, 1968 when the tornado struck Greenwood. Mizell was let out a few minutes before the rest of the students, as were all of the kids who walk home from school.

“We only lived about 10 blocks away from the school,’ said Mizell. “I started walking down Main Street and that is when the tornado hit. It picked me up and I was flying through the air.”

Rusty wound up in the middle of the street as he was blown around until he was able to grab a stop sign.

Mizell had blood running down his head. He had suffered a skull fracture from flying debris.

“It cut a big hole in my head that I could stick my finger down into,” said Mizell.

Rusty was picked up by a passer by, Jerry Hicks, who took him downtown to a store where they wrapped his head up with a towel. The towel was full of blood by the time he was put into the ambulance but he never lost consciousness.

“My family was frantically looking for me all around the school when they heard that I was downtown,”

Mizell was eventually found by his family and loaded onto an ambulance and taken to the emergency room.

“The hospital was chaotic,” remembers Mizell. “They were treating people out in the hallways. I was still in shock by what had happened. I don’t think I was ever taken to a room. They did a scan on my head and brain surgeon looked at me.”

The tornado destroyed Mizell’s entire neighborhood including their house and killed their next door neighbor, Henry Nave. A refrigerator landed on Nave, he was transported to the hospital where he later died from his injuries.

“The death toll could have been more than 100,” said Mizell. “It is burned in my memory. Every April 19 I remember where I was and what I was doing.”