Harrisburg Medical Center memorializes leap day tornado

Hundreds of people in Harrisburg, Illinois, gathered around the memorial Monday that stands in the path of the 2012 leap day tornado. The EF-4 tornado killed eight people and damaged more than 600 homes.

One of the buildings torn apart was the hospital.Monday afternoon, dozens of people gathered outside the entrance to silently honor all those who lost their lives that day.

Though the Harrisburg Medical Center was hit that day, hospital workers never stopped fighting to help their hurt community members coming in through the doors.

“I knew this day was coming," said Rodney Smith, CEO of the Harrisburg Medical Center.

It’s been four years to the day since the leap day tornado left this devastation in its path, ripping off roofs and tearing entire walls off the Harrisburg Medical Center. It’s a day Smith says he’ll never forget.

"It was very hard for me to forget the feelings that I had or what I saw that day. And, actually, I don’t think we should forget," Smith said.

The hospital wasn’t just taking care of Harrisburg’s loved ones that day. They were also grieving the loss of one of their own, a nurse named Jaylynn Ferrell.

A memorial now sits outside HMC in her memory, letting those in the town remember her and the others. It’s a lesson Smith says he hasn’t forgotten.

"I think we should remember not necessarily the horrific things, but how the community came together,” he said.

In the years since, the hospital has rebuilt what the tornado took away. It’s now preparing to expand its services, hoping to serve more of the community just like they did that day four years ago.

"We’ve grown. Obviously, it took a while to repair the building that we were in, but we’ve done that and we’ve grown,” Smith said.

Smith says the first thing he does when giving a tour of HMC is to show people Jaylynn’s memorial. He says it’s not just to show visitors what the community has lost but to show how much they respect and remember those who come through their doors.

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