NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – Thirty-four years ago, 18 people were killed across Trumbull and Mercer counties when a tornado cut a path of destruction from Newton Falls to Hermitage.
On May 31, 1985, a devastating tornado tore through the Niles Park Plaza, killing nine people.
So, on this 34th anniversary, a new memorial honoring the lives of those Niles victims was unveiled.
“It definitely still holds a very special place in my heart. I think about my mom every day,” said Julie Italiano.
Italiano was just 5 years old when the EF5 tornado destroyed the plaza off Route 422. Her mom, Elaine Italiano, was one of the victims.
“It’s a very tragic day but definitely a day that we like to remember and want to honor her,” she said.
Italiano and her family were there as property owner Ralph Delserone and Niles Mayor Steve Mientkiewicz rededicated the memorial.
Delserone owns Raphael’s School of Beauty in the plaza. He bought the plaza two years ago and renamed it Raphael’s Commons.
“Even though this was a tragic event, it is now part of our history and this memorial will ensure that it is never forgotten,” Delserone said.
The memorial has two plaques, one of which names each of the nine victims who were killed in Niles.
“We know how severe it was and how much work the community did to restore the city of Niles,” Mientkiewicz said.
“It’s very important that people remember what happened that day, you know, my dad and mom were in the car together. It’s just nice that someone who acquired this plaza took the time to do this for our families,” Italiano said.
The memorial replaces an older one that is still in the plaza parking lot. It’s located nearby the new plaques, which are underneath the Raphael’s Commons marquee.