Ordell was in town when the blizzard hit, so he joined with the other men in town on the rescue bus. They took turns walking to guide the bus and keep it out of the ditches. He described how the tractor and the phone truck went to the stalled bus by way of the Wernsing road while the backup bus, led by the Cat, went a different route, meeting at the stranded bus.
“Clayton had made a couple of trips to get help. He ended up a mile east at the Glen [and Rose] Carlson farm,” Ordell recalls. He also described how the entire group made it back to Chokio, where the school had a meal waiting.
Ordell said, “Everything turned out good. We all made it back. We were young enough.”
Gene retired in 1999 after working 33 years for Federated Telephone in Chokio. It was still the day of party lines in rural areas, yet their service vehicles were set up with mobile telephone equipment. In the days long before cell phones, it’s no wonder the phone truck was a key part of the rescue plan.
Gene, of course was in the phone truck along with Gary Riba and Roger Gerdes. The phone truck was tethered to the tractor that led it. The men took turns walking in front of the tractor, guiding it down the road and away from the ditches.
“Everybody got cold,” Gene said.
Because of the phone equipment on site, the team was able to keep in touch with the County Sheriff’s office in Morris. The rescue caravan made it safely back to the school where, Gene said, “They fed everyone.”
Gene mentioned the astounding international media coverage of the rescue.
“I had a classmate in Germany at the Army Service Station. He heard the story and got in touch with me.”
David and his wife were both home with the young kids when the storm hit. He had been doing chores for his dairy cows and sheep.
“The barn doesn’t freeze if livestock is in it,” he said. In the home, they were kept warm by an oil-burning stove.
David said his brother Dale Anderson had “quite an experience being on the rescue team.”
“The temperature started at 55 degrees in the morning and it had fallen to 20 below zero when they got the children back to the school,” David recalls.