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Six years later, time hasn’t healed all wounds for tornado victims in Marshall County

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. - Time is a tricky thing. Off Ruth and Frontier Road, an entire neighborhood was destroyed by one of the many tornadoes that hit on April 27, 2011.

“It’s hard to explain how it does feel," says Deborah Head, a tornado survivor. "Six years, at one time it feels like it was yesterday, another time it feels like it was 100 years ago."

It's been six years, yet Deborah can retrace nearly every step of that fateful day, that deadly storm.

"And when it went over, it was the smell of pine. It was amazing how that smell of pine, and then you hear glass breaking and you can look up and see daylight," she says.

Over time, cuts and bruises heal, houses get rebuilt, but the mark on the landscape will last generations.

“This whole area, we had trees all over," says Head.

Days after the storms passed, WHNT News 19 flew over Ruth and Frontier Road, to give context to the extreme devastation.

Six years later, Sky 19 shows how ruins have made way for rebirth. But that path didn't come easy.

“We had to wait a couple of weeks until the insurance companies gave the go ahead to start building," she says.

The Head family waited two weeks until they couldn't stand it anymore.

“And then finally my husband said, nope, no more, we’re building," she says.

They had three homes to rebuild, one for them, one for her mother and one for her husband's sister. It was a task they couldn't take on alone.

“Wonderful church groups came and they helped out tremendously," says Head.

Thankfully, they didn't have to do it alone.

“It was so many times that a bottle of water meant a lot and they would come daily and say do you need something to eat? Do you need something to drink," she says.

Over time, they rebuilt their house, but it seemed incomplete knowing one of their favorite families would never have a chance to rebuild theirs.

"The loss of life, not the loss of things, I can get more things," says Head.

Phillip, Ann, Shane, Jennifer and Jayden Hallmark were killed on April 27, 2011. Head says they were more than neighbors, more than a friendly occasional wave.

"They were just wonderful, wonderful people. Anyone would be proud to be a friend of theirs," she says.

And now, a beautiful garden in the Head's front yard, dedicated to the Hallmark's, has turned into much more than a memorial.

"And sometimes we just see people that are parked in the driveway and they’re just sitting on the benches, just sitting, and that’s okay, that’s what I wanted them to do. I wanted everyone to feel welcome and come do that very thing," says Head.

And this neighborhood has turned into more than just a community.

“We all joined a club that day that we did not want to join but here we are anyway, and it’s for life," she says.

Time won't heal all wounds, but that doesn't mean you have to journey through it alone.

“If it happens again, we’ll be a little more experienced, but we’ll know we’re not there by ourselves," says Head.