Tornado's 'miracle baby' thanks the man who saved her

The smallest survivor of a tornado that ripped through the Edmonton area 20 years ago has finally had a chance to thank her saviour.

The smallest survivor of a tornado that ripped through the Edmonton area 20 years ago has finally had a chance to thank her saviour.

Kristen Lemay and Bill Clark, the police officer who saved her from the July 31, 1987, tornado disaster, reunite on the 20th anniversary of Edmonton's worst natural disaster. ((CBC))

Kristen Lemay was only a week old when the tornado struck the region on Black Friday — July 31, 1987 — killing 27 people and injuring more than 300.

On Monday, the "miracle baby," who grew up in Quebec, returned to the Evergreen Mobile Home Park to meet Bill Clark, the police officer who rescued her, for the first time.

The two embraced and Lemay thanked him several times.

"I was just part of a group," Clark said. "I just did what anybody else would have done."

'You were so small'

The tornado left a trail of destruction 40 kilometres long and up to a kilometre wide in some places, causing an estimated $330 million in damage in Edmonton. More than 300 homes were destroyed and hundreds more were damaged by strong winds and hail.

Clark was one of the first police officers to get to the trailer park, where 15 people were killed and more than 100 homes were torn apart. A resident handed him baby Lemay, then walked away.

A photo of the 1987 tornado taken from an office building on 98th Avenue and 50th Street. (Courtesy: Robert den Hartigh )

"You were so small, only in a diaper, I remember. And I'm going, 'Holy, what are we going to do with all these people?'" he said."I was so worried about you. That's all I was worried about was the baby."

Unable to find an ambulance, Clark filled a police car with four injured adults andputLemay on his lap.He drove through huge pools of water in the flooded streets of Edmonton and up onto boulevards to get to the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Once there, he ran past the nurses at the front door, delivering her straight into a trauma room.

Clark said that every year at about this time, he thinks about the tornado and what happened at thetrailer park.

Saviour, survivor unite

The two didn't get the chance to meet until now largely becauseLemay grew upout of province.Twenty years later, they did a bit of catching up.

"I have a boyfriend and a little sister and I have a good life," she told him.

'Miracle baby' Kristen Lemay told her little sister she would one day meet the man who saved her. ((CBC))

Lemay has newspaper clippings of their story pressed into a scrapbook.

"I said to my sister … you see this man? One day I'm going tomeet him," she said.

"And now you can tell everyone you met me," he replied.

Victims remembered at memorial

Clark was at a Tuesday afternoonmemorial service at the mobile home park, along with politicians, as well as past and current residents of the park.

The service was held in a garden where a tree was planted for each of the 27 victims of Edmonton's worst natural disaster. Participants laid flowers and wreaths at the base of the trees in memory of those lost.

MLAKen Kowalski, who is now Speaker of the legislature, was public safety minister when the tornado hit. In a speech during the memorial, Kowalski said he was inspired by those who came forward to help.

"If there can be a silver lining to the dark cloud, it was the strength of the entire city, the population of Edmonton, andthe people of Alberta,who came together to rebuild and offer support and strength to those who needed it most."