8 years later- people remember the tornado that destroyed their town

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GIFFORD, Ill. (WCIA) — Eight years ago today lives were changed forever in Gifford. A tornado ripped through town, destroying or damaging about 200 homes.

Several people wrote on our Facebook posts talking about where they were when the tornado happened. Two people say they were lucky to be right on the outskirts of town when it happened so they were safe, but one of them had their home destroyed.

“Everybody always thinks well there will be tornados, but never in my area,” Christina Gann Jepsen said.

On November 17, 2013 people in Gifford were expecting storms, but they weren’t expecting a tornado.

“You couldn’t imagine what had just happened and you couldn’t imagine how we were going to recover from this,” Gann Jepsen said.

The tornado was one of three that hit Champaign County that day. People still remember seeing the devastation.

“It put a lump in your throat,” Earl Smith said. “It really did.”

“I remember seeing the faces of some of the people that later I found out had lost their homes and it was like a warzone,” Gann Jepsen said. “The shock that was on their face, like I can’t really be living this, but I couldn’t stop I had to get to where my family was.”

Hours after the tornado swept through, destroying tons of homes, the town and surrounding areas were already cleaning up the mess.

“It was really not even something that we had to think about as a community, it was like our community was in trouble and those that were not directly impacted, we picked up where others could not,” Gann Jepsen said. “That’s what being part of a small town is all about.”

“This is Gifford,” Smith said. “This is what Gifford’s all about. Neighbor helping neighbor. Even if somebody moves to town and you don’t know them very well, if they have a problem or crisis, people come to help. That’s just the way it is.”

They say that’s also something they will never forget.

“Its just really hard to believe looking back that its been 8 years,” Gann Jepsen said. “In some respects it seems like a lifetime ago and in other respects its like wow I could just relive all of those early moments and its just seems like it was a few days ago, but we’ll never be the same, but we go on and that’s who Gifford strong is.”

“It took me a year, but I got to say, we were a good town beforehand and then we came back even stronger afterwards,” Smith said.

No one was seriously hurt during the tornado. They said it was projected to take three years to rebuild Gifford. It was mostly fixed all by the next year.

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