FAIRDALE, Ill. (WLS) --Events were held in Fairdale on Saturday to commemorate the one-year anniversary of a deadly tornado that ripped through the DeKalb County community.
The EF-4 tornado brought 200-mph winds and killed two women and damaged every home in the town, which is about 80 miles northwest of Chicago.
After the tornado, some people moved away from the small tight-knit town of about 150 people. Others sought to rebuild.
However, recovery - both emotionally and structurally -- and has been slow.
"I know this day is going to be full of a lot of hugs and kisses and a lot of tears," said Clem Schultz, who lost his home and wife, Geri, of 25 years when the April 9, 2015 tornado hit.
In addition to Geri Schultz, her friend and neighbor Jackie Klosa was killed.
On Saturday, the community gathered to celebrate a new beginning as residents struggle to rebuild.
Habitat for Humanity broke ground Fairdale's 16th new house - and Deena Schell and her daughters will eventually call it home.
"it's a miracle," she said. "I can't believe that I get to come home. ... This is where my home was."
Amid dozens of vacant lots where homes used to be, there remains hope for the future, despite the town not qualifying for state or federal assistance.
"When I drive by Fairdale, I see a phoenix rising from the ashes," said Les Bellah, president of nearby Kirkland Township.
Gov. Bruce Rauner also attended commemorative events, telling the crowd "Fairdale is not as strong as its houses or trees, it's as strong as its community."
"I grew up in this town, this area. I know a lot of them. To get to from that day to this day is a big deal," said Carl Bruder, of the Kirkland Fire and Rescue Department.
PHOTOS: 2015 Illinois tornado damage