TRAGIC DAYS AFTER TORNADO
RELIEF AND SIGHT SEEING AMID RUINS OF GREAT CITY— SOLDIERS ON GUARD—STORY OF PETE, THE CANARY.
The tornado zone of Omaha was thrown open to sight-seers on Sunday, one week after the disaster, who came by the thousands and from whom contributions were expected. This move indicated cleverness of Omaha men, who realized from the start how unpopular military espionage in the afflicted district was, and after accomplishing wonders in a few days were ready to let the public in.
The visitors were forced to keep to the streets, as soldiers prevented encroachment on yards or wrecked homes. And in every block were conspicuous boxes inviting one to drop his spare change for relief of victims. With awful evidence directly before them, few of the sight-seers neglected to contribute something. Thus thousands of dollars were added to the general fund.
This fund, save for the large contributions of railroads and similar corporations mostly outside firms, did not grow so fast as expected. Without the dozen or more checks from those corporations and companies, and not including appropriations from the Nebraska legislature, the Omaha municipality and school board, the aggregate was surprisingly small.
Besides a cheek for $1,000 from the harvester company, President Cyrus H. McCormick wrote Mayor Dahlman a letter that, to resort to the vernacular, "made a hit." Mr. McCormick, among other things, had the following to say:
"It may be a source of comfort to you and to your brave people to know that our local agent at Omaha has been requested to instruct his blockmen, canvassers and salesmen to investigate and make prompt report of suffering among farmers and to furnish immediate relief in outlying farming districts that may be neglected because lacking organized relief work. While we do not engage to cover all of this ground, we will cheerfully render such aid as we may.
"The Nebraska and Iowa farmers ever have shown such great confidence in our fairness and integrity that besides the broad sympathy that human distress must awaken in all mankind, we feel an added sense of personal obligation, of personal gratitude and friendliness toward them as individuals.
"We will be thankful, indeed, if we can prove an instrument of substantial aid and comfort to those who suffer."
Both the gas and electric light and street railway companies of Omaha made large cash contributions.
Saturday was a great day for the relief squad, which was augmented by 210 school-teachers, who found pitiful cases of destitution and suffering. Three families at the starving point, with sick mothers and fathers and children helpless for want of food, were among those quickly given sustenance. It is such remote and secret cases with which managers of the organization are having the most difficulty. Either pride or physical weakness, or both combined, prevent scores from getting the help that Omaha’s generous people are anxious to afford.
A man was jailed on a white slave charge. He is accused of trying to lure Bessie Farrell and Hazel Ford of Council Bluffs into going away with him. He wore a deputy United States marshal’s badge and was threatening the sobbing girls with arrest when arrested. The watch for panders was maintained. Bush and McGrath, Chicago detectives, gave valuable assistance.
Drug fiends took advantage of the tornado. Their plan has been to solicit food and clothing as victims of the storm, sell the supplies and with the money go to a "coke" dealer and get their "medicine." Several of the "coke" squad were observed in the extreme of the drug delights when arrested were found to have been given clothing at several of the stations.
Just as after the San Francisco earthquake there were in circulation at Omaha a number of canary bird stories. One was sent out early in the week by various correspondents, but others waited to see just how "good" the canary yarn would get. There were twenty variations of the tale, and the latest, "absolutely" reliable was told by E. J. McVann, a local business man whose reputation for veracity is unimpeachable.
"My children loved little Peter, our canary bird," said Mr. McVann, with suspicious moisture in his eyes. "But, to tell the truth, others in the family thought it high time for Peter to pass beyond. He was so old that he could not sing, and he was possessed of only one eye. So, he wasn’t very charming in appearance. But the babies loved Peter, and that’s all there was to it.
"My house was given an awful jarring and slapping by the tornado, and the next morning I went through it to see just what was left. In our bedroom I found an empty bird cage, twisted and crumpled. There was no Peter, however. The cage was underneath the mattress of our bed. The bed had been knocked over and the cage must have been blown under the flying mattress and imprisoned there.
"I looked in corners, under the bed and in the closet —no Peter. Then I stood in the center of the room wondering if Peter could have flown away. The idea that Peter at last was dead came over me. How would I break the news to the children? I looked up toward the shattered bureau, and guess what I saw? On the top of the dresser, calm and owl-like, stood Peter, his head cocked on one side and the lonely eye winking a good-morning at me., Peter seemed to say, ‘Well, here I am, all right and ready for breakfast.’
"He wasn’t injured a bit, not a feather ruffled. How he got out of the cage is what pesters me."
A streak of humor through the tragedy that befell a number of colored men in the Idlewild Club was flashed by an undertaker, who said that in removing a coat from a darky, who had been a genial and popular fellow as well as a surprisingly good poker player, an ace of spades fell from the sleeve of the garment.
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