Hackleburg, Alabama, a small town of some 1,400 residents, is trying to mount a comeback one year after a devastating tornado ravaged the area in 2011, killing 18 people.
Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragedy in Hackleburg, about a two-hour drive northwest of Birmingham. The town will hold a city-wide day of prayer to mark the solemn anniversary.
This community has 100 percent worked together to try to put everything back together, Hackleburg, Alabama Mayor Douglas Gunnin told the AP.
Hackleburg is showing signs of life, with the town's annual festival to be held Saturday, the Associated Press reported. The event had to be canceled last year because of the tornado's destruction.
Hackleburg's rebuilding includes a new City Hall and plans for new police and fire stations in the pipeline.
The town's largest employer, a Wrangler distribution center, is part of Hackleburg's rebuilding. The old plant had been destroyed by the tornado but the company plans to replace it with a new facility, according to AP.
It was clear from the beginning that the people of Alabama wanted us to be there, said Sam Tucker, vice president of human resources for VF Jeanswear America, the company that owns the Wrangler brand.
Much has changed in the small town since tornadoes ripped through Alabama last year, when the town had one of the highest per capita fatality figures, according to WKRG.
The television station said residents estimated 90 percent of the town had been destroyed.
This was a neighborhood, about 500 houses here and it's all gone, says Pastor Elizabeth Knowles, told WKRG at the time. Before you could just see the top of the city water tower, now you can see right to it, this used to be solid trees and houses.
With the one-year anniversary of the tornado nears, Hackleburg resident Lonnie Garrison reflected on his experience of getting thrown to the ground when the twister approached.
When I opened my eyes the lights flickered and I thought I better check the weather and then my ears popped and the next thing I knew I was on the ground and it was over in 10 seconds, Garrison said.
As Hackleburg mounts its comeback, that's not to say that the town has been without its struggles; there are families living in FEMA trailers, some Hackleburg residents have left the town and Hackleburg is without its bustling café and grocery store, the AP reports.