Tornado Aftermath, 1979

“One thing there isn’t - and that is any doubt but what we will regroup and build again. As a museum operation, we don’t have much left for the moment. But we do have half our active collection, some displayable damaged items, and a full nucleus of aircraft in storage which will someday be on display at a new and better Bradley Air Museum.”

- George Clyde, NEAM News vol. 13. No. 3 Fall 1979

Not a group to throw in the towel, the Bradley Air Museum immediately started picking up the pieces of the destruction left by the tornado. The very next day volunteers were pitching in on the massive clean-up effort. Once the outdoor area was secure, BAM was able to invite weekend visitors to view the wreckage of the outdoor exhibit for the very reduced price of $0.99. To help with the loss of funds, donations were solicited from those peeking through the fence during the week.

On June 14, 1980, the museum was able to reopen seven days a week to the public with a new temporary outdoor exhibit on the ramp by Building 170. Twenty-five aircraft that were able to be moved were put on display, with more delicate ones placed under the overhang of the building. It was the first time since 1975 that BAM had been so dependent on weather for their visitation. Offices were set up in a donated trailer, and the staff and board set about planning the museum’s next steps.

Dubbed “The Year of the Rebirth” in Operations Manager Chuck Horner’s year end report, he stated, “We survived, intact, with a working staff and operating exhibit.” That the Bradley Air Museum was able to bounce back so quickly from such a devastating blow shows the strength and loyalty of the museum's board, staff, and volunteers.

All photos by C. Horner.


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