Family mourns anniversary of tornado victims’ deaths

RIEGELWOOD — The scene off Holly Tree Road is much different than it was a year ago today when the deadly tornado hit. Today you can see there are about half a dozen homes that have been rebuilt and the debris has been cleared out.

There are still some empty lots though, a reminder of the number of deaths caused by the tornado.

The Martinez family lost three family members in the tornado. A large white tent is up in the Martinez’s yard. The family is holding a memorial to remember the lives lost.

Martinez family friend Faith Freeman said, “It’s just taking one day at a time trying to get through this.”

Freeman has been close friends with the Martinez family since she was nine. She’s stood by the family’s side over the past year as they’ve grieved the death of three family members who were killed in the tornado: six-year-old Danny Jacobs, 13-year-old Miguel Martinez and 23-year-old Suley Ruiz Martinez.

“I think it’s really hard for the mother who lost two kids and a grandson, she’s really having a difficult time,” Freeman said. “She sits down and looks at her photo albums and thinks about the past, and when they were growing up, and she starts crying.”

Freeman says the Martinez family follows a cultural tradition of grieving for their loved ones — for a year they don’t listen to music or attend parties.

On the anniversary of their deaths a large gathering is held and a shrine is built in their memory.

“This is how they deal with their grieving, is by let’s get together and support one another, that’s why they’re going to have this meal,” Freeman said. “This is just kind of a way for them to cope because nothing like this has ever happened here. To everybody in the community it’s like how do you deal with this.”

Six-year-old Danny Jacobs was killed in the storm. He attended Acme-Delco Elementary School.

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