By Karen Middleton
For The News Courier
Barbara and Bobby Harbin and their son were sitting in the living room of their mobile home on the afternoon of April 27, 2011, when an EF5 tornado swept through and destroyed their home at the end of Old Banford Street off Capshaw Road. At the same time, the monster storm all but obliterated nearby Tremont subdivision.
Sunday, the Harbins received the keys to their new Habitat for Humanity and United Way of Limestone County home just feet from where their former home was blown away. Hopefully, they are now on the way to putting that day of horror behind them. A day that took the lives of four of their fellow Limestone County residents but miraculously left them physically unscathed.
“That day I was sitting in a chair and my husband was sitting on the couch when the storm hit,” said Barbara. “It threw me to the floor and my son on top of me. And then trees fell in all around us. It was an hour and a half in there before we could get out. All that was left was the bedroom. We crawled in there and busted out a window to get me to crawl out. I had had a stroke and couldn’t walk.”
Bobby Harbin said, “This is just wonderful – God has blessed us so much. All the people that have taken part in this – Habitat, United Way and all our neighbors have been such a help.”
Harbin said he suffered a stroke since April 27, 2011, and can’t remember much about the storm that destroyed his home. He is reveling in today.
“Oh, Lord, this beats everything,” he said. “It’s like a million dollars.”
Includes safe room
Officials, including Rep. Mac McCutcheon and State Sen. Bill Holtzclaw were on hand for Sunday’s dedication, which also marked Alabama’s 2001st Habitat for Humanity home built since the organization began. Both McCutcheon and Holtzclaw presented the Harbins with state flags that had flown over the State Capitol in their honor.
McCutcheon read a state resolution honoring the Harbins that stated, in part, that the couple had worked tirelessly for others in the community after the storm, with Harbin cutting and clearing trees and debris. He said the couple is known as “selfless” in the East Limestone community.
Habitat Director Greg Miller said the three-bedroom, 1,300-square-foot home is constructed using ICF, or insulated concrete forms, and features a safe room off the kitchen.
“This is a very wind-proof and insulated house,” he said. “It will be able to take winds of up to 225 miles per hour.”
Miller said the home drew a lot of attention while under construction.
“People would pull up and say, ‘What are you building, a house or a bank vault?’ and I would say both,” said Miller.
United Way and HFH Athens/Limestone County partnered to build the Harbins’ new home. A groundbreaking ceremony on the home was held in January.
The new home is made possible through Athens-Limestone Habitat for Humanity and United Way. The Harbin family also pitched in financially and worked on other HFH projects as part of the “sweat equity” required to receive a Habitat home.
Miller said the family submitted an application for a new home not long after the tornado. It normally takes a year between submitting an application and completing a Habitat home, but Miller said the project was expedited through financial help from the United Way’s Long-Term Recovery Committee.
“A lot of the waiting is usually scrounging the money to be able to build (a house),” he said. “The United Way really helped us out with this.”
The project was aided by visiting students from Notre Dame College in South Euclid, Ohio. The week after that, students from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky., came to assist.
The Harbins also contributed financially to the cost of the $50,000 home through using a grant from FEMA and insurance money.