"I saw the tornado," Melinda Milazzo said. "It was just like you would see in a movie."
MULLICA HILL, New Jersey (WPVI) -- One year after the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through the Delaware Valley, families impacted by a tornado in south Jersey are looking back.
Melinda Milazzo believes she's alive today thanks to a guardian angel.
On September 1, 2021, she heard a voice tell her to look out her window.
"I saw the tornado," she said. "It was just like you would see in a movie."
It was heading straight for her Mullica Hill home on Josephine Lane.
She yelled for her husband and mother, who was recovering from hip replacement surgery, and ran to the basement.
"As I was going down the stairs is when it hit and it kind of tumbled me down the stairs and we pretty much just landed at the bottom," said Milazzo. "Everyone says like the freight train sound, but for us, it just felt like we were going to be buried alive."
What wasn't destroyed by the tornado was ruined by rain.
As they were still picking up the pieces days later, her entire family got COVID-19.
Her father-in-law passed away, and her husband Bill was hospitalized.
One year later, Bill has recovered and they have completely rebuilt, with a lot of support.
"I don't think I ever want to leave our cute small little town because they came together like a family," she said.
Harrison Township officials say about 40 families were displaced and some are still rebuilding. Many are now facing supply chain issues.
"Some have given me examples like they have their kitchen cabinets but they don't have windows," said Harrison Township Deputy Mayor Julie DeLaurentis.
Many who are still rebuilding hope to be back in their homes for the holidays this year.
The Harrison Twp. Historical Society is working on an exhibit to commemorate the tornado and rebuild.
It's scheduled to open on October 1, 2022.
In Wenonah, the mayor says about half of the homes in the borough were impacted in some way, and 30% needed a new roof. Two houses were destroyed.
In the past year, new trees have been planted to replace the dozens that fell.
"Removing the stumps, repairing utilities, we had root balls that were just massive that we had to have excavators and heavy equipment to remove," said Mayor John Dominy.
He says the work isn't over.
"We have infrastructure issues that we're going to continue to pick at for the years to come," said Dominy. "I've told folks that we're going to be living with the scars of this tornado for quite a long time."