It was a celebration on March 6 for one Dexter family that has been waiting 11 months to move back into their Horse Shoe Bend home.
On March 15, 2012 Bob and Katie Jazwinski's home was badly damaged after a Category F3 tornado tore through their neighborhood in Dexter Township. It destroyed or damaged more than 200 homes, ripped massive trees out of the ground, and caused more than $9 million in damage. The Jazwinskis were among the hardest hit, their home almost completely destroyed.
"The tornado took out more than half of the house, and there was significant damage to the other 20 percent," Bob Jazwinski said. "It was a lot more traumatic then we let on."
For the past year, the family has been living out of hotels and rental homes as insurance companies and contractors worked with the family to rebuild their house.
"We were one of the lucky ones in the sense that we didn't have any major problems with our insurance company," Bob said. "I can't speak highly enough about State Farm. I will recommend their service to anyone."
Bob said moving back has been a gradual process, with friends and family helping to trek the items the Jazwinskis managed to salvage after the storm back to their house every day for the past several weeks.
"When we first moved back, our No. 1 priority was making the kids' rooms as sleepable as possible," he said.
For months after the tornado hit, Bob and Katie allowed their children Bobbie Jr. and Jessica to sleep with them to help alleviate any lingering anxiety.
"The kids are slowly venturing back into their own rooms," Bob said. "They feel safe sleeping in their own beds."
And while the house will take some time to get used to, the family said it's a lot better than living out of suitcases.
"It was nice," Bob said of their temporary house, "but it wasn't a place we could call home. Now it's a mess back at the house, but it's an awesome mess to have."
Katie said the biggest relief has been seeing the family's neighbors return to their daily routines.
"No one moved away," she said. "It feels so nice to drive down Dexter-Ann Arbor Road now after almost a year. We can finally say we're home!"
To show their appreciation for all the help they and others received after the storm, the couple tapped their network of runners to organize the first annual Dexter Tornado Run/Walk at Hudson Mills Metropark on March 15.
Proceeds from the event will go to local nonprofits, including Faith in Action, Hudson Mills Metropark, and Poured Out.org.
"So many different people and groups helped us out," Katie said. "From baby clothes to food and money and a place to sleep. Complete strangers sent us cards of support. It feels good to be able to pay it forward.
"This is our way of saying, thank you."
Registration for the event is now closed, however the Jazwinskis encourage everyone in the Dexter community to come out and spend time with their neighbors.
"It's therapeutic to talk about the tornado," Katie said. "Everyone was affected by it in some form or fashion."
In addition to their new home, the family is also celebrating the birth of a third child, Sammie, who was born on Oct. 4, 2012.
"Dexter is our home, even more so after the tornado," Bob said. "I don't think we'll ever want to live anywhere else."