Illinois Tornado Victims Pick Up the Pieces After Deadly Storms

11/20/2013 at 09:45 AM EST

The wreckage of Jon Byler Dann's Washington, Ill., home
The wreckage of Jon Byler Dann's Washington, Ill., home
Courtesy Jonathan Byler Dann

Devastated residents in Illinois towns ravaged by deadly tornadoes that flattened their communities on Sunday are surveying the damage – and wondering how to go on.

One woman sobbed as she looked out at the wreckage of her family's farm in New Minden. Sunday's storm killed two of her elderly relatives.

"We was planning on a Thanksgiving down here," she said as she wiped away tears. "We was going to fry a turkey down here, so we were all looking forward to that. We don't know what we are going to do now."

The powerful storms killed eight people, and hit New Minden and the city of Washington particularly hard. In that community, up to 400 homes were leveled or significantly destroyed.

"There's nothing here. Unreal. Just terrifying," said one crying woman as she looked out on what was left of her home. "You just don't think things like this will happen."

Yet despite the destruction, heroes and hope emerged.

Concerned citizens started a Facebook page attempting to reunite victims with their belongings, which in some cases traveled as far as 100 miles away.

And one woman deemed her daughter-in-law a hero for rescuing her after she got pinned underneath a concrete block from her collapsed home.

"She was an angel," she said from her hospital bed. "I don't know how long I would have been there because I couldn't have moved that concrete block myself."

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