March 1st, 2012
12:12 PM ET

Part of Illinois development like 'a slate wiped clean' after tornado

Editor's note: CNN's Soledad O'Brien and Rose Marie Arce traveled to Harrisburg, Illinois, Wednesday night to survey damage from the devastating EF4 tornado that killed six people there. Soledad O'Brien is live covering the devastation for CNN"s morning show Starting Point.  Here is what they saw:

Brady Street is a quaint development in Harrisburg, Illinois. A short street, full of pretty, cream-colored duplex homes. Built identically, many were just finished in November. But as the sun rises, the day after Harrisburg's deadly tornado what's clear are the scars, and the death and destruction in its wake.

The newest section of the development is like a slate wiped clean. All that remains of those home are their foundations.

This is a spot where several people died. The wind pushed all the debris, and the homes, across the street and into the neighboring houses.

It's a staggering example of the strength of a tornado, and its randomness.

Right next to the cleared slates are other homes, still standing, intact. Some are missing only siding, or have lost only a window. They stand in a sea of debris and splintered wood and stuff: couches, and clothes, stuffed animals and photo albums. It's the stuffed animals that give you pause.

Small children lived in this neighborhood. One is a 5-year-old boy who was hospitalized with head injuries. His grandfather Jeff Street came by to gather clothes and whatever was left by the storm. He told me how he'd been in the bathroom when the tornado hit, unable to join his family, who were hiding in the closet. Once it passed he kicked down the door and crawled out, barefoot and shirtless. He freed his family from the closet and they went for help.

Across the street, the Osman family wasn't as lucky. Mary Osman, 75, was home alone when the storm struck. It's unclear where she was found, but by the time her son Darrell got to Brady Street she had been rescued and placed in an ambulance. She had a gash on her forehead.

His wife, Caroline, rode with Mary to the hospital. That's where the bad news was given, says Caroline, who is a nurse. Doctors told her the gash hid more severe head injuries. By the time Darrell got to the hospital, his mother was fading. She died shortly after.

"The only thing that's getting me through this is knowing that she's in heaven with God and Jesus Christ has given me the strength to do all of this," Darrell Osman said. "Yesterday we came out here during the day hours and we were able to find some pictures... of all things, I found my birth certificate that she had. I found her marriage license."

Sheriff Keith Brown toured the damaged homes with me.

He's been in law enforcement for three decades, and he says he's never seen anything this terrible.

soundoff (5 Responses)
  1. ma & pa

    God bless all of you and give you strength.

    March 1, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Really???

    Courage is moving towards healing in the face of loss. My thoughts are with you all.

    March 1, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Shafar khaaliq

    Allah makes the tornadoes to america on account of how blacks and red people are treated

    March 1, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      It's past your bedtime.
      Get off Mommy's computer and go back to sleep.

      March 2, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  4. Terry s.e. MO.

    You have to be kidding me! Tell me then is Ahhla building nuclear weapons too? Is he causing all the hatred and wars over oil? How about the way Ahhla allows women to be mistreated in eastern countries? You do not know what Ahhla is doing? Watch what you speak! We the people have a choice and my GOD is a loving GOD! So go pray to Ahhla for forgiveness for what you just said. Weather has been strange all over the world so is Ahhla causing that to the world? One thing I have learned in my life is there will always be people like you making stupid comments. RESPECT, HONOR and LOVE have dissappeared from our whole world! That is my comment and I am sticking to it!

    March 2, 2012 at 1:28 am | Report abuse |