April 9 tornado still a harrowing experience for the family of a - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

April 9 tornado still a harrowing experience for the family of a Fairdale survivor

The home of Donna Chambers after the Fairdale tornado. The home of Donna Chambers after the Fairdale tornado.

When Karen Chambers pulled up to her mother's ravaged Fairdale home, she wasn't prepared for what she was about to see.

The scene was so shocking to Chambers, the only thing she could think to do was to pull out her camera and start recording. For several minutes she stumbles through the debris, both outside and in the house. All the while Chambers gasps, and at times cries, over what she was seeing. 

"The branches were like spikes. That was what really threw me," Chambers said.

One year ago Chambers' mother, Donna Marston, survived the EF4 tornado that struck Fairdale. But the sight of her mother's home in shambles threw her and her sister Lisa into an emotional tailspin.

The video Chambers made captures the raw emotion that the EF4 tornado left behind. The family sat down to watch it together for the first time in nearly a year, even though at times the memories it conjures up make it unspeakably painful to watch. 

(Daylight peeks out through holes in the ceiling of the first floor of Donna Chambers' house.)

When the video progresses to the main bedroom of the house, Chambers begins to cry. She said the room, destroyed and disheveled, was her mother's.

"Walking in mom's room, the windows are gone. She has stuff everywhere," she said, holding back tears.

"When I think about my kids had to go in there and see what they had to see, actually physically be there and see what happened was just overwhelming," Marston said.

Donna, her granddaughter and two great grandchildren survived the storm in a tiny bathroom on the first floor, but Chambers says they lost everything.

"When you really look at it, and you see that video, everything has to be replaced," said Karen. ''It's heartbreaking."

Karen, Lisa and Donna all returned to the old property after watching the video. Today, the only thing remaining of the Fairdale home is a concrete slab. 

"It's just hard to see it gone," Donna said, wiping away tears. 

As difficult as it is seeing what's now a shell of their former home and as painful as the memories are, the video brings a sense of gratefulness to the family. 

"Thank God that we're alive and we survived that," Donna said. 

The former Fairdale resident says she has no plans of ever returning to Fairdale now that her home is gone, but she does try and keep in touch with the residents who were once there, and those who still are. 

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