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Kentucky residents work to rebuild six months after tornado caused chaos

“It was like you’re driving through canyons of rubble,” Mayfield mayor Kathy Stewart O’Nan told NBC's Kate Snow.

The residents of Mayfield, Kentucky, are still rebuilding their town after a deadly tornado ravaged its downtown area six months ago and left at least 74 people dead and at least a thousand homes damaged or destroyed.

Volunteers who work with the charity Homes and Hope have already started construction to build 100 new homes in the area — and each house will have stronger foundations, sturdy lumber, more wind resistance and will be built with special clips to prevent the roof from flying off.

The town's residents are still engaged in the long process of rebuilding.
The town's residents are still engaged in the long process of rebuilding.TODAY

Resident Jeremiah Barker recalled what it was like to have his house damaged in the storm. He said that he started to hear "beams pop" before everyone in the house "got lifted" by the tornado.

Barker said he could do nothing but pray after a beam came within inches of his face.

Kiana Parsons-Perez also saw the full extent of the storm when she and a few dozen more employees were trapped inside a candle factory on the night of the tornardo.

Parsons-Perez, who livestreamed the harrowing experience on Facebook, said that she feels "blessed" to still be alive, even though being trapped there was one of the most "terrifying" things that she's ever experienced in her life.

"That experience just really let me know how short life is," she said. "So I don't want to live a life with any regrets."

After being flattened by the storm, the candle factory has since reopened in another building.

As for Mayfield's once vibrant downtown area, it's now unrecognizable.

"It was like you’re driving through canyons of rubble," said Mayfield mayor Kathy Stewart O'Nan. "You got to get it all cleared off before you can start the rebuild."

O'Nan is asking everyone to be patient. She hopes that businesses will return to the area, but she's not sure how many business owners are willing to rebuild their stores.

Susan Flint, owner of Carr's Barn BBQ, had to take out a second mortgage to rebuild her restaurant that's been family-owned for 75 years.

While tearing up, she said that it's important for her to rebuild Carr's Barn BBQ because it means a lot to the community.

"I feel like the community needs us as much as we need them," she said. "You know, these people are my family. All my family that worked here is now gone. I have no family left."