Close-Knit Illinois City Looks to Heal after Twister

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HARRISBURG, Ill. -- Across the tight-knit community of Harrisburg, you see the scars of the deadly EF4 tornado that swept through Illinois last week. But you also see determination -- people trying to move forward.

Toby Marcum and his wife, Diana, lost one of their cars when a tree toppled onto their garage. They say they know it could have been worse.

"Yes, we were incredibly lucky," Diana told CBN News. "We still have our possessions. We still have our car. We still have each other."

Others lost far more. Tammy Agin bought her home three years ago. Now, it's a total loss.

"All that rubble right there was up on my house," she said.

Agin was overwhelmed by the damage, with no one to help. That's when CBN's Operation Blessing International stepped in.

"The next thing I knew everything was cleaned up," she said.

From near and far, volunteers have come to Harrisburg to pick up debris, take away trash, and retrieve family belongings.

"We just found a couple of pictures for a gentleman up the street, and they were pictures of his son," Leanna Cossman, a volunteer, told CBN News.

"They can never be replaced, so finding those little things that mean so much to people is important and gives them hope for their future," she said.

It will take quite some time for the people of Harrisburg to pick up the broken pieces of their lives. It will take even longer to heal from the pain of losing loved-ones and neighbors. The twister killed five people on one street alone.

In a show of solidarity, hundreds packed into the high school gym Sunday night to console one another, remember those who lost their lives, and pray for healing -- something the town is already experiencing through the work of Operation Blessing.

"When Operation Blessing comes in, not only do we lend a helping hand, but we give hope. We see people bring their shoulders back, lift up their head at a time when all hope was gone," Jody Herrington-Gettys, Operation Blessing's U.S. director of relief operations, told CBN News.

That help is already making a difference, giving storm victims a sense that they're a part of an even larger community.

"When something like this happens, everybody comes together," Diana Marcum said. "The community comes together, the country comes together, and it's just really great to see the spirit of humanity in a positive way."

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John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.