Plainfield tornado survivor: Grieving process not over

  • Gloria Sanchez was killed in the Plainfield tornado 20 years ago.

      Gloria Sanchez was killed in the Plainfield tornado 20 years ago. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

Updated 3/8/2011 4:50 PM

Even 20 years after Jane Sanchez's daughter, Gloria, died during the deadly 1990 tornado in Plainfield, she worries when she hears warning sirens during severe weather.

The Darien woman was in Florida with her husband when one of her five sons called and told her the news: Her only daughter, a music teacher at Plainfield's St. Mary Immaculate Catholic Church, was one of 29 people to die in the Aug. 28, 1990, F5 twister.


Sanchez says she worries that others will have to go through what she has gone through, a grieving process that's still not complete.

"You never totally forget, by any means," she said. "You remember it every year. Every time there is a tornado warning, you think about it. You remember that and hope other lives are not lost."

Jane and her husband, Ramon, were spending time in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., when they saw footage of the storm's devastation on a television newscast. Homes were destroyed and the Catholic school was obliterated.

Gloria was one of three to die at the school, along with its principal Sister Mary Keenan. A Chicago resident, Gloria taught part time in Plainfield and had re-enrolled in college to pursue her full-time teaching credentials. She had been at the school preparing for the upcoming school year. The night before, she had stayed with her parents, then residents of Burr Ridge.

"We felt she would have gotten out of there by that time," Jane Sanchez said, noting that the tornado struck near the end of the school day at about 3:15 p.m. "It was just total shock.

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In the 20 years since their daughter's death, Jane says she and her husband have dealt with the grief in different ways. With five sons, Jane says it was especially difficult to lose their only daughter.

While her husband has retired from his career as a physician, Jane says she tries to keep her mind busy. She said the couple plan on attending 4 p.m. Saturday mass at the rebuilt St. Mary's church to commemorate the event.

"You can't put a time frame on it," she said. "You move back and forth through the stages of grief after that. But it's somewhat easier. Time is a great healer."