Funerals began and cleanup continued Saturday in the GateHouse community of Harrisburg, Ill., a town wiped out by a tornado Feb. 29. Click inside to see the latest video and photos, and learn how to help.
There may have been more people at the graveside service for Lynda Lou Hull, a victim of the tornado in Harrisburg, Ill., who didn't know her, than who actually did. The service, held at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sunset Garden Cemetery in Harrisburg, was ringed by a semi-circle of support.
As the family drew close and mourned, a protective layer enveloped them, in case members of the Westboro Baptist Church, of Topeka, Kan., showed up with their hateful signs and insulting message.
As the service neared its close, a woman shouted out to the throng: "The family wants to thank everyone who came out to support us."
One of those supporters, Amanda Tibbs, a resident of Harrisburg, came out to help shield the family from the Westboro members, who never actually showed up.
"These people are here to support the family of the victims to they don't feel like their loved one is being dishonored by this group," she said. "We're making sure the family members aren't disturbed. They need this time. They need this time for burial."
Hull would have been shocked to see such an outpouring, said Bekki Bridewell, married to a nephew of Hull's.
"I can just hear her saying, 'All this for little ol' me?'" Bridewell said.
The rally around the family has been a tremendous comfort during such a difficult time, she added.
"It has been amazing - absolutely amazing," she said. "We have had more people call, email and come by with food and prayers of support."
As she was speaking, another service attendee walked by and dropped a whole cake in Bridewell's arms.
Bill Jones, an employee with Merz Vault Co., of Salem, Ill., has worked many funerals and wasn't surprised to see the volume of people attending. Among the crowd were members of several motorcycle groups, there to create a human barrier against the Westboro members, if necessary.
"Those bikers are not as mean and tough as people think they are," Jones said. "It's nice to have people stand tougher. There should be more of that in the United States."
How to help
In addition to contacting your local Red Cross chapter or Salvation Army to find out how to donate money, here are some needed supplies:
-- Children's games and toys
Canned food is not needed -- many victims do not have anywhere to cook their food.
Go online to make a donation to the Red Cross Disaster Relief Fund or text REDCROSS to 90999 to donate $10 donation from your mobile device.
Page 2 of 2 - To support the Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Services Fund, go online or call 800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769).