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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A year ago Wednesday the deadly tornado swept through Middle Tennessee, devastating communities all across the state. In Donelson, the Stanford Estates community was unrecognizable the next morning and even still even today.

Neighbors have moved out, homes that weren’t completely wiped out have been knocked down, some are still holes in the ground, while others like Cammillia Mays have been rebuilt.

As bright as the freshly painted yellow door is on the outside, it is a dark day for the family that’s inside.

“All I can think about is that night. That night it was horrible. I could see this furious thumps of aggressive lightning through our downstairs door, back door,” Mays explained.

She watched while lying in bed with her husband and 2-year-old granddaughter while 4-year-old Ariyah was upstairs.

“It was raining and everything was crashing,” said Ariyah.

That’s when the home alarm then went off.

“So both of us reach for our phone to turn it off and it wouldn’t turn off. So I came upstairs to turn it off and at that point the 4-year-old, she ran to me so I automatically just told her come on some downstairs with us, get in the bed with us,” said Mays.

Minutes later, there was a huge boom and the family raced to the bathroom.

“We just stood there and held on to each other and held on to the girls in-between us. I can’t stop screaming why do I smell dirt, why do I smell dirt. My mind automatically went to we are buried, we are underground and that’s what it felt like and that’s what it smelled like. It was a nightmare and I was awake and I was trying to figure out how to get out,” the grandmother described the panic.

On the other side of that bathroom door there was devastation in the darkness.

“My car was upside down and on the side of our house by our bedroom, there was a tree in our living room,” she said.

The grandbabies called it “the broken house.”

“That alarm saved my grandbaby, 100-percent sure of that. Her bedroom was destroyed. Where she was laying there was no roof, part of the bed was gone, the mattresses was gone where she was laying just a few minutes before.”

Today, “broken” has been replaced with “new.” The family moved into their new home the day after Christmas.

“We are ok because we are in the new house,” Ariyah proclaimed with a smile.

The new house built as the family wanted with a big picture window, but Wednesday the view is not as they had always dreamed. 

“I always wanted a big picture window in my kitchen, as you can see I got it. I can hardly look out of it most days because those houses back there are still gone. It’s just a big empty hole.”

Mays said she holds onto faith that the picture outside will once again be bright.

As traumatic as that night was, like many… Mays said they are blessed. Out of a dark event came light, shining love and humanity from strangers, volunteers and prayer warriors that helped get them where they are today.

See how hope has overcome heartbreak across the area. News 2 brings you special reports Tennessee Stronger: A Year of Recovery all day Wednesday in every newscast and on WKRN.com.

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