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March 4, 2013

They are not forgotten: Pekin remembers family, marks recovery



“Most of what it brings back for me is the family we lost. We lost a whole family,” Campbell said. “Remembering them is the main thing. The houses and stuff can be put back together. They can be rebuilt, but losing that family? That has hurt me more than anything.”

Like Campbell, Barney Harding wasn’t accustomed to receiving assistance. Having served in the Army for 27 years, he’s normally the one providing relief to those in need. But the March 2, 2012 tornadoes changed all that. While he and his family were enjoying a cruise, his house was completely destroyed. As he sat powerless 400 miles off the coast of Florida, family and friends rushed to his home to salvage anything not shattered by the storms.

Eight months to the day the tornado struck, the Hardings moved into their rebuilt home. But even now, they have a hard time forgetting the past year. Barney Harding said being with others at events like this remembrance ceremony can provide some respite. 

“For me, it’s really nice to know that it wasn’t something that happened and just went away,” he said. “We all share something together. It kind of puts everybody at peace knowing everybody is together.” 

Relief organizations hope to continue fostering this community spirit in Pekin so neither the tragedies nor the triumphs of that March day are forgotten. March2Recovery members Judy Johnson and Jennifer Mills-Knutsen were on hand to lend their support to the commemoration. The group has done much to aid in the reconstruction efforts of the town and Johnson said they are pleased with their accomplishments. Even still, the work is not complete.

“It’s important that we’re here today, first of all so that people know the recovery isn’t over and done. There are still people waiting to get homes and have their houses rebuilt,” Mills-Knutsen said. “But even for those who are back home again, it was a really traumatic experience.”

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