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‘You can see hope here’: One year after the 2011 tornadoes

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Over the course of four terrifying days in April 2011, hundreds of deadly tornadoes ripped across the southern United States. The tornadoes killed more than 300 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes. Before agencies could finish assessing the full extent of the damage, another storm system struck on May 22, killing 161 people in the small town of Joplin, Missouri, alone. 

But local Habitat for Humanity affiliates in the devastated areas were forming plans for recovery even as 190 mph winds ripped homes from their foundations. Within hours, they had mobilized volunteers to begin clearing debris and covering roofs. 

And they haven’t stopped working since. Today, on the eve of the storms’ one-year anniversary, thousands of people are living in safe, secure homes thanks to their efforts. 

Checking in on some of the hardest-hit areas, we found families full of hope, forging new lives. Here are their stories.

ALABAMA
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‘We’re here; we’re ready’


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Tuscaloosa
‘Glad to be home again’


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Hackleburg
‘I just feel really blessed’

TENNESSEE
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Cleveland
‘It’s a million times better’

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Joplin
‘Every house…gets us closer’

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Other Habitat affiliates
‘Times of disaster are a wake-up’