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Town marks 6 months since devastating tornado

Published: Sunday, May 18, 2014 11:36 p.m. CDT

WASHINGTON, Ill. – Six months after a tornado devastated Kris Lancaster's home and the homes of hundreds of others in his central Illinois town, the mere sound of a train going by on tracks near where he currently lives unnerves him.

"A tornado sounds like a freight train," he told The Pantagraph about why the passing trains upset him. "It freaks me out all of the time."

At the six-month mark since the powerful Nov. 17 tornado devastated Washington, many residents are taking stock of how far they've come and just how far they still have to go on the road to recovery.

The physical damage in the community of 15,000 is more obvious. Many homes are still being rebuilt. Elsewhere, people are still clearing away debris. And some lots where houses once stood are for sale.

The tornado destroyed or damaged more than 1,000 homes, killing one person; two others died later of related injuries.

Shirley Lukavich describes a nightmarish scene as she huddled with her daughter in the basement as the tornado roared over them. She said her daughter kept saying, "'Mom, we are not going to die in this basement.'"

Lukavich, who's had to deal with contractors to repair the severe damage to their house, said she's grown as a person.

"I realize now that I can do things I never knew I could do," she told the Pantagraph.

Lancaster, who had always loved watching storms, video recorded the tornado as it bore down on his house last year. He admits he lingered too long; he was injured by some swirling debris as he ran for his basement.

That day changed him, like it did so many others. For starters, he now hates storms.

Another change? On one side of his stomach, he now sports a tattoo of a tornado ripping apart homes. In the middle of it, though, is a "W." It stands for "Washington Strong."

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