Tornado Recovery a Mix of Grief And Goodwill

By Rob Elgas and Christian Farr
|  Tuesday, Nov 19, 2013  |  Updated 9:32 PM CDT
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Victims begin to get a better sense of what was lost from Sunday's tornadoes. Rob Elgas reports.

Victims begin to get a better sense of what was lost from Sunday's tornadoes. Rob Elgas reports.

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Volunteers Chip in to Help Diamond Recover

Tornado victims are getting a helping hand in their quest to recover.
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Residents of hard-hit Washington, Ill., were allowed back in their homes during daylight hours Tuesday, but many didn't have homes to return to.

At times it resembled a scavenger hunt, looking for lost items.

"We have found everything that we have wanted to find so far," Domini Ardis said.

Ardis was helping his grandma Minnie pick up the pieces. Minnie somehow survived the tornado, even though she couldn't get down the stairs

"When she heard the front windows blow out, she closed her eyes. She said she opened up a two minutes later the storm was done, but as you can see, her house was completely gone," Ardis said.

Ron Essington returned to his childhood home to help his parents take stock of what's left of their house.

"It's been a long day, with more to come, but it's just a lot of memories. My parents were here for 44 years," Essington said. "You have mixed emotions when you're in shock, and then you see things that you've known for generations ... it's by the grace of God that these people lived, especially the young people that can rebuild."

After hearing confirmations that Sunday's tornado was 200 yards wide EF-2 tornado, it makes sense when you see damage to an RV store off Route 113 where dozens of campers were destroyed.

Nearly 300 volunteers with a non-profit disaster relief group called Convoy of Hope, packed into small buses and headed to Diamond and Coal City to help residents there pick up what Sunday's tornado left behind.

"Volunteers are so important afterward just to let the homeowners know that there is still hope after this," said volunteer Ryan Bedford.

The group helped families like the Thomas', who were trying to remove a damaged fence by themselves.

"They are wonderful. It saves me from dragging that stuff back to the curb," homeowner John Thomas said.

The volunteers come out knowing that they just as easily could be in the same predicament.

"We are like a small family in these communities, so that is why I came out to volunteer," Braidwood resident Tammy Nodine said.

Diamond resident Pam Mazurek is thankful that so many volunteers helped clean up her home after it was nearly destroyed by the tornado.

They've cleaned out so much debris already in a very short time ... it would have taken forever for me to get that out," Mazurek said. "After something like this people can't think clearly, and these are the people thinking -- and helping."

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