A family from Joplin, Mo., whose home was destroyed in the devastating tornado got the surprise of a lifetime today when Ty Pennington and the team from ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" knocked on their door, live on "Good Morning America," with news that their house would be rebuilt.
"It's been incredibly difficult five months," said Kyle Howard, a local firefighter, husband and father to four sons, who were all woken up and ran outside to greet the "Extreme Makeover" team this morning. "Yet, we've all pulled together. We've come together and helped each other. People came out of the woodwork to help. People you didn't expect to see. Kind of like this."
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has taken on what will be their biggest build ever -- seven homes for seven deserving families in seven days in the tornado-ravaged town. "Good Morning America" will go behind the scenes with Pennington and the design team and crew this week.
"These guys have been through so much and everybody has just lost much, but just hearing the compelling stories, everyone has really helped each other and they're ready to rise up and rebuild and that's exactly why we're here," Pennington told "GMA's" Sam Champion.
Kyle Howard was at the fire station when the storm struck. He longed to rush home to check on his wife, Jill, and sons, but duty called. Trekking through the rubble, Howard rescued trapped victims and tended to injuries for two hours without knowing if his own family had made it out alive.
Finally, fate intervened. Howard was miraculously reunited with his wife, Jill, who sustained minor injuries, and he learned that his boys, Keenan, Konnor, Korbin, and Kaleb, were also safe.
Their home was a different story. All that remained of the three-bedroom house were the walls of the closet where Jill and their sons hid during the storm. In the twenty minute-window the tornado moved over Joplin, a lifetime of memories was erased.
Families like the Howards are starting to rebuild one step at a time in the Missouri town. Against all odds, the high school reopened in August and neighborhoods and business are starting to spring back to life. But even five months later, it's hard to put the painful past behind them when lots where schools, parks and homes once stood still remain empty, a reminder of what used to be.
Although the loss of their home and belongings was devastating, they have tried to regain some sense of normalcy for their family. The family is grateful for their lives and has onto one another for hope.
Now, their prayers have been answered by the modern-day miracle workers of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," who will rebuild the Howard's house and six others from the ground up.
"This is going to be one of the most phenomenal things we've ever gotten to be a part of," Pennington said.
"Good Morning America" will take you inside the construction and design of the Howard's home and then we will "Move that Bus" and reveal the Howards' new home, live on "GMA," next week.
- Ty Pennington