20 YEARS LATER: St. Peter residents reflect on devastating tornado

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Twenty years after a massive tornado devastated the city of St. Peter, Minnesota, residents are reflecting on the disastrous day and how their city united after the tragedy.

Fourteen tornados touched down in Minnesota that day. The cities of Comfrey and St. Peter were the hardest hit.

Thursday evening, residents attended a memorial event to reflect on the tornado. There was a moment to silence to mourn six-year-old Dustin Schneider of St. Peter and 85-year-old Louis Mosenden from Hanksa Township near Comfrey, who lost their lives during the spring storms.

“I remember growing up being deadly afraid of tornados,” said Jane Timmerman, St. Peter recreation and leisure services director. “We were in the basement with my nephew under the couch. I remember the moment this is really happening. That’s what I remember the most.”

“It was just surreal because I lived there my whole life,” said Dan Oachs, a resident. “Knew every tree, every house and what they looked like. Seeing it in that state was very difficult.”

Terry Blaschko can joke about it now.

“Happy 20 years tornado!” said Blaschko, while popping a celebratory bottle. “Tough day. Was a tough day.”

He says he will never forget the devastation, which killed two people. Blascko's family lost so much, including their pool hall and bowling alley right in the heart of town on Minnesota Avenue. The Blaschkos never rebuilt Peterson Recreation, which had been in the family for more than 100 years. 

Eventually, Terry bought the building next door, where he has operated the Embassy Bar and Grill for the last decade. Inside, he has two tables crafted out of the polished wood from the old bowling alleys.
“I love the bar business,” said Blaschko. “The point of being on the same block I grew up on. That’s the fun part. It made it pretty interesting.”

Twenty years later, signs of the massive tornado that ripped through St. Peter, Minnesota are hard to find. Easier to see is way the city rebuilt what was lost. The historic, brick courthouse was eventually repaired. A new community center now stands where the Church of St. Peter once stood. The new church opened about a mile away.

“New schools, new hospitals and that never would have happened if it hadn't been for that storm,” said Sue Gray, a tornado survivor. “So some good things happened as a result of that. That's the way we have to look at it that way.”

A resident created a video that showed the destruction side-by-side with how the city looks today.