Posted: Oct 24, 2012 12:44 PM by Janine Reyes
Updated: Oct 24, 2012 6:56 PM
CORPUS CHRISTI -- Ten years ago a series of tornadoes hit the Coastal Bend. One of those storms, an F2 tornado, turned deadly.
It hit on the Del Mar West Campus, travelling 2.5 miles. That storm killed Professor James "Buster" Gillis. It became the first and last deadly tornado in Corpus Christi.
October 24, 2002 is a day professor Joe Livingston will never forget. He was at the Del Mar West campus just after 1:30 that afternoon when the deadly storm cleared a path on the campus.
Radar the National Weather Service captured that day shows the storm moving through the Del Mar Campus.
There was almost no warning, only minutes before the F2 twister landed, a professor told Livingston to take cover. "We heard these high wind sounds and whistling sounds and it was real weird and then it was real quiet," he remembered.
That's when he walked outside to survey the damage, and found a gaping hole in the side of the Barth Learning Resources Center. Under the rubble, emergency crews found professor James "Buster" Gillis. They tried saving him, but unfortunately, he died. Livingston says there was nothing anyone could do.
"It just unfortunately had hit right where he was and that wall came down, right on him," Livingston said. Only moments before his death, Livingston says Gillis made some life saving moves. Its something the dozens of students in his class that day will never forget. "A lot of those students went over to Rockport and talked to Mrs. Gillis and told how much he protected them and probably saved some of their lives," Livingston recalled.
Livingston hired gillis, and knew him for many years. It was his wife that informed Mrs. Gillis of her husband's death. Today, even though the campus has dramatically changed in 10 years, images of that day will never leave his mind.
"I think about him all the time," Livingston told us, "I mean its not just because it was the 10 year anniversary or anything."
Livingston will clearly never forget the events that happened at Del Mar West 10 years ago, but for those who never had the pleasure of knowing Gillis, there is a memorial there remembering the ultimate sacrifice he made for his students.
"He really enjoyed teaching again and doing all that stuff, he wouldn't have traded that for anything," Livingston said.
Three tornadoes hit Corpus Christi on that day 10 years ago. One was an F0, the others were F2 storms.
The National Weather Service has put together a website that details the events that day and pays tribute to Gillis.
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