Community remembers leap day tornado

Hundreds of people in Harrisburg, Illinois, gathered around a memorial Monday that stands in the path of the 2012 leap day tornado.

The EF4 tornado packed sustained winds of 170 miles an hour. Eight people died. More than 600 were damaged.  The damage is cleaned up now, but the community continues to work together to move forward.

"I remember waking up to a phone call from my sister, and she told me that she was in her bathroom and they were being hit by a tornado," Ida Evans recalls.

Her brother and sister were among the lucky ones who survived the leap day tornado. However, her parents’ home took a direct hit, and her father was killed.

"We remember him every day, every morning," Evans says. 

Four years later, the healing process continues for many in the community of just over 9,100. 

"We saw some pretty horrific stuff that day, and I told my wife I’m having a hard time forgetting it, and she said you shouldn’t forget it," Harrisburg Mayor Dale Fowler says. 

Fowler’s home was among the 609 hit that day, and he says the scars are still visible. "There are still empty lots in my neighborhood, and still to this day when I walk out of the front door of my home, it just doesn’t seem right," he says. 

Fowler was able to rebuild his home, and much of his city, which he says is now stronger and safer thanks to the sacrifices made that day.

"We’ve come a long way here in the city. We have new business, and new development, but it will never be worth the eight lives that were lost. We’re a cleaner, stronger, more secure, and safer community."

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