Family to participate in Hickory Hill parade in honor of late family member

By Jamel Major - bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - A Hickory Hill family will participate in the upcoming community parade in memory of one of their loved ones who died in the tornado that destroyed the area.

Damara Willis recalled the death of her brother Leon Harbin just like it was yesterday.

"It just seemed like a dream," Willis said.  "A nightmare."

Willis said it all started with a phone call.

"It was almost like somebody was holding a cell phone in front of a warehouse fan," Willis said.  "I couldn't make out what he was saying."

Tragically, Leon Harbin died on February 5, 2008 after a tornado ripped through the Hickory Hill business where he was working.

Harbin loved cars and bikes and was a member of the Lethal Riders Motorcycle Club.

"That's why I know so much about cars," Willis said.  "I'm going to school to be an auto mechanic because of my brother.  He taught me a lot of stuff and kept me on the right road."

Willis said her family will join motorcycle club members who will be riding in the upcoming Hickory Hill Community Parade to mark the reopening of Hickory Ridge Mall.

The mall was heavily damaged by the tornado.

"It's vacant, empty," said Willis, "a constant reminder of what happened."

Willis said she would try to avoid driving past the mall.

"I would try to detour around it as much as possible," Willis said.  "I'm glad it won't be an empty, hollow lot anymore."

For Willis, it is a special way to honor the memory of her late brother.

"It really helps the healing process to know they weren't forgotten," Willis said.

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