Recovery and remembrance: Cordova looks back at Apr. 27 tornadoes

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CORDOVA, Ala. (WIAT) — Wednesday marks five years since an outbreak of tornadoes tore through central Alabama.

One of the hardest hit communities was the City of Cordova.

Two tornadoes demolished homes and Cordova’s historic downtown, and four people were killed.

Lisa Mitchell remembers the exact prayer she recited, while sitting with family and friends in a hallway, bracing for the storm that day.

“The prayer was, ‘Lord, if it’s my time, I’m willing,'” Mitchell recalled. “‘But it if it’s not, save us.'”

Mitchell would soon learn that her cousin, Jackson VanHorn, died.

Mitchell said he was taking shelter inside a house that collapsed in the storm.

“We just watched houses explode,” Mitchell said. “It was just a tearful day that day.”

Shara Hallman’s son was seven years old at the time. Hallman said it was difficult to explain to him what had happened to their beloved hometown.

“Everything was just demolished,” Hallman said. “I have no words for that day. It was unbelievable. Heartbreaking. I knew it would never be the same as what it was growing up.”

While just about all of the city’s roughly 2,000 residents have clear memories of April 27, 2011, the city itself still shows scars from that day.

Among the foundations that still lie empty in the center of town, new foundations are forming.

The city has re-built its only grocery store, a Piggly Wiggly, and last year, the police department and city hall moved into a new facility.

Residents say watching the rebuilding process, while slow, has given them hope.

“It’s come a long way,” Mitchell said. “It’s still got a long way to go, and it does need some industry in it. That’ll come in time.”

“I’m excited to see what they’re going to do as far as facilities for the kids, and new businesses that might come to town to help Cordova grow into something nice, and keep going as my children grow up here, too,” Hallman said.

At 6 a.m. Wednesday, the flag over Cordova will be flown at half-staff.

The city will also dedicate two storm shelters Wedesday evening, leading up to a candle light vigil at 7:15 p.m., at the victims’ monument next to city hall.

Copyright 2016 WIAT 42 News

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