Harrisburg, IL Rebuilds One Year After Devastating Tornado

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HARRISBURG, IL (KTVI) -  One year ago life changed forever in the southern Illinois town of Harrisburg. An EF-4 tornado ripped through the area killing several people and doing massive damage. Now, a year later the community is on the mend but memories of the tragedy are still vivid.

'I still have dreams about it and we still get shook up when they say storms are coming this way,' said tornado survivor Jeff Street.

Jeff remembers it like it was yesterday, the massive tornado going right over the apartments where he and his family lived. Jeff had just gotten out of the shower and was in the bathroom. His loved ones ran for cover.

"They no more got past the bathroom door and I heard glass breaking, felt the duplex start to shake. And then just like a giant bomb went off I mean everything just collapsed,"  explained Street.
The complex that Jeff and his family called home was destroyed. Six people in the units around them were killed. Somehow Jeff and his family survived.

"I feel very blessed to be alive," said Jeff.

The deadly twister hit Harrisburg a little before 5am on leap day of last year. Eight people died and hundreds of others were hurt. Some 40 businesses and 250 homes were either damaged or destroyed. Now the town of about 9,000 is bouncing back. The apartments where most of the people were killed are rebuilt. And there are other new homes in the hardest hit area.

Mayor Eric Gregg is proud of the progress but still remembers the victims. "There`s not a day that goes by that we don`t think of those we lost and those that were injured and those that lost everything that they own and the families are truly a source of motivation and inspiration for us," said Gregg.

Saline County's Emergency Management Director Allan Ninness added, "It's been a long road. We've, we've worked hard, our community has really come together, they've worked. We've had loads of support and help from all over the Midwest, the United States."

The mayor says the rebuilding is about 85% complete.  He hopes it will all be done by this fall. As for Jeff and his family, they didn`t go back to their apartment. But they still live in Harrisburg; the town they love.

"You never realize how many friends you have or how many people are willing to help until something like this happens. And that`s one reason I will probably never leave this community because I mean everybody`s family," said Street.

Mayor Gregg says some six thousand volunteers from all over including St. Louis have come to help Harrisburg rebuild.

A monument is being dedicated for the victims tomorrow and a community wide church service is set for Sunday.

Pictures from 2012