Ruth community in Arab holds memorial service to remember Hallmark family killed on April 27, 2011

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ARAB, Ala. - The memories of April 27, 2011 are still fresh in the Ruth community of Arab. Wednesday, neighbors joined together to share in those memories, and remember lives lost.

On this day five years ago, a tornado knocked through every single one of more than two dozen homes in a mobile home park in Ruth.

A family was taking shelter in a home in that community, when a tornado ripped through. Five of them -- all from one family -- died. Wednesday, their community came together to remember Ann, Phillip, Shane, Jennifer, and Jayden Hallmark.

Dozens of the family's neighbors and friends stood in a front yard on Ruth Road. "This is a day that will never been forgotten," Mayor Bob Joslin said. "Five years ago today will always be etched in our hearts."

"All of us remember Lord, where we were and what we were doing," said another speaker.  People bowed their heads and held hands as they prayed.

There are dark memories, but at the memorial, there are also bright specks of color.

The service was held in a memorial garden. It has flowers, a bench, a fountain, and a monument with five names written on it.

"Five years. It's been five years," said Deborah Head.

Head and her husband created the garden in front of their home. It's not far from where some members of the Hallmark family waited out the storm in a home. "I knew them for years," Head recalled. "In fact, Ann and I went to elementary school together. We've known each other since we were children."

The memorial garden -- right in the Heads' front yard -- is in the Hallmark family's honor.

Five trees are planted around it, honoring five lives.

Some of the flowers are especially significant. They were Ann's. "Her living son. He told me, he said go over there and get what you can of Mama's flowers, and that's what I did," Head says.

Now they're thriving, throwing bright specks of color into dark memories, and that's what they're meant to do.

"We don't know why that happened that day," Head said, "but there's a reason, and one day we will know but right now, let's just celebrate life."

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