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Rock Hill tornado victims still picking up pieces

Monday makes two months since a tornado south of Rock Hill killed Steve Courtney, a husband, a father, a grandfather. Somehow, this family has forged on - even though there was no home left to go to, to grieve.

"November the 16th changed our lives forever," said Sharon Courtney, widow of Steve Courtney. "There is our lives before the tornado - and this after."

She pointed Saturday at the ruins of the house, which crews began demolishing this week.

"Our whole history was right here," Sharon Courtney said. "We built this house, raised our kids here. I don't know that I can come back to this spot again and live."

When the tornado hit Nov. 16, three people died, including Steve Courtney, 60, an electrician. The chimney of his Williamson Road home fell on him, just seconds after he ushered his daughter, Rachel Winker, and Rachel's daughter, 2-year-old Ashlyn Winker, into a hallway in the only part of the house that wasn't destroyed.

"I will always think about it, my father, saving us first," said Rachel Winker. "I have scars from the storm. My foot, my face. But the scars on my heart will never heal, either."

Since then, the support for the family has been the one bright spot for Sharon and daughter Rachel, and sons Nathan and Jeremy. Churches - especially Northside Baptist, Oakdale Baptist, and Lifeway - have aided the family, as have countless friends, neighbors, even strangers.

"There is no way to express the thanks for all that people have done to help us through this time," said Jeremy Courtney. "I just want everyone to know how grateful we are."

Now that the insurance process is finished, the family has a company, Burris Landscaping, that knocking down the damaged building so the family can decide whether to rebuild on the same spot. The clean-up has been slow, on purpose, so that some special pieces of stone from the fireplace hearth can be saved, and other construction materials such as bricks and wood and heavy timbers might be used to help other people in need.

"The wood will be used for wheelchair ramps, so that what we have here can be a service to another family," said Nathan Courtney. "So many people helped us through this. We fell it