One year ago…

February 29, 2012. It’s a day that I will never forget.

It is the day that the EF-4 “Leap Day” tornado hit my little hometown of Harrisburg, Illinois.

At 4:56am the tornado hit Harrisburg. It would be 35 minutes before I knew that my parents and grandmother was alive. It would be another 40 minutes after that when I would know that my other grandparents were alive. They were the worst 75 minutes of my life. I was 27 weeks pregnant. And hysterical that my son would never know my side of the family.

Today is the one-year anniversary of the tornado. For those of you who have followed this blog, you might remember my original post here.

I wrote that post just a few short hours after everything happened. It was still fresh in my mind. Now I’ve had a lot of time to process what happened to my family and my town. It’s been very tough.

Let me give you an idea of what my family went through.

My grandparents house ... or what's left of it.
My grandparents house … or what’s left of it.

This was my mother’s parents’ home. It was declared a total loss and had to be torn down. It was their home for almost 40 years. They were able to get very few things out of the house – only what was in the basement. I was there when they started to tear the house down. I will never forget the sound of her dishes breaking in the kitchen while the equipment was ripping into what was left of the house. It made my stomach turn. It was awful. My grandmother was very lucky that she was able to get from her bedroom on the second floor down to the basement before the tornado hit, or she would not be here with us today. My grandmother was in such shock that she thought she would be spending the night after the tornado in her house like nothing had happened. She is still not quite “right”, but she’s still with us and that’s all that matters to me. They have since purchased a house across town and are still struggling everyday with the after effects of the tornado.

Inside my other grandmother's house ... just about the whole house looked like this one room.
Inside my other grandmother’s house … just about the whole house looked like this one room.

This is the living room of my father’s mom’s house. She has a gorgeous 4000+ square foot house. She put a lot of money into it when she built it a little over 10 years ago. All along the back of her house is windows. That side of the house was in the direct path of the tornado. Every single window along the back was blown out and you see all the debris in the picture – that was pretty much all over the entire house. It was a complete and utter mess. Structurally her house were intact, but the inside was practically gutted and rebuilt. To be completely honest, since her house sits down in a little bit of a hole, the tornado went right over the top of her house and that probably is what saved her house from being destroyed completely. She was out of her house for 3 months while it was being rebuilt. She’s back in and very happy. She took things so great, after the initial shock wore off she actually told me that she had been thinking about remodeling (new paint/furniture) – well, she sure got that!

My parents' house ... they sustained the least amount of damage, but one year later they are STILL dealing with the last of the repairs.
My parents’ house … they sustained the least amount of damage, but one year later they are STILL dealing with the last of the repairs.

My parents actually had the least amount of damage to their home. But they’ve had the most problems getting things taken care of. Part of this is because they’ve had some issues pop back up – like the new roof that leaked about 5 months after being replaced. And the carpet that can’t be laid completely because there was mold in the closet subflooring. And when the subflooring was replaced it came to their attention that their house was sinking very badly and needed to be repaired first. It’s been like that with everything for them. Just seems to be one thing after another. My mom constantly tells me that it would have been so much easier for them to have had their house destroyed and start from scratch than to deal with all the mess they have been. I think part of this stems from the fact that she has hated that house since the moment they bought it in 1997 – my dad picked it out 🙂

Anyone who has either dealt directly with a tornado or has heard stories of other people describing their experiences will tell you how strangely tornadoes act. Like how one house can be demolished while the house next to it won’t have been touched. Or the person who has a kitchen in complete disarray with everything destroyed but the one vase on the counter is completely untouched. There’s no explaining this. But let me show you a picture that shows this phenomenon perfectly.


My grandmother has three china cabinets full of gorgeous pieces. And not a single thing in those three cabinets were broken. Like I said, it’s amazing what tornadoes can do and how they will leave certain things untouched and then demolish something two inches away.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since this has happened. Some days it feels like it was just yesterday and then other times it feels like an eternity ago.

I never thought that something like this would ever happen to me. Never in a million years would I have thought it could ever happen.

I used to love storms. Now I’m petrified.

I used to love my two-story house with all the bedrooms on the second floor. Now I want a basement.

I used to take my family for granted. Now I don’t. I can’t. I won’t.

3 thoughts on “One year ago…”

  1. Reading this makes me so glad we deal with Hurricanes more than Tornados Tara, so happy for you that your family is still intact because they are the really important reason to keep moving forward as the people we love are all that really matter not the “stuff”. Hugs and as hard as this was you all still have each other and that is a lot as you have found out.

  2. Jackie – I know you can really relate having been through the fire a few years back. People and pets can’t be replaced … possessions can.

    BermudaOnion – I know, it was a horrible experience. Definitely a feeling I will never forget. And to think … we were one of the lucky families. I believe the final death toll was 8. And in a little town of roughly 7000 people, losing 8 people really impacted the community. Everyone knew someone who was affected, and almost everyone knew one of the people who lost their lives. Definitely puts things in perspective, that’s for sure.

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