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WDAY: The News Leader

Published August 28, 2009, 11:16 AM

Huge homecoming for victim of house explosion

Rutland, ND (WDAY TV) - In Rutland, North Dakota tonight, they are celebrating. Not a win on the football field, something much bigger, a chance to host a homecoming months in the making. WDAY 6 Reporter Kevin Wallevand is back from southeastern North Dakota with more on this emotional night.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

Rutland, ND (WDAY TV) - In Rutland, North Dakota tonight, they are celebrating. Not a win on the football field, something much bigger, a chance to host a homecoming months in the making. WDAY 6 Reporter Kevin Wallevand is back from southeastern North Dakota with more on this emotional night.

It was back in October that a house in Rutland exploded, leveled. Critically injured and burned over 70-percent of his body, 53-year old Hal Nelson. A lifetime resident and DOT worker everyone knew and loved.

All the best burn doctors at HCMC gave Hal no chance of surviving this. Tonight, after months of care, he came home to a hero's welcome. It seemed like another quiet afternoon in Rutland. Fields of green and gold, harvest time, Main Street during a sleepy September.

“We made these at church school on Wednesday.”

But today, children and others prepared for Hal's homecoming.

“We learned that Hal always said never give up and the power of prayer is amazing.”

Little Lutherans who have waited for his return, Hal nelson's parents, who never left their son's side, waited just as they watched him face death and beat over and over these last few months.

“And I knew Hal would not give up.”

Soon, word spread, Hal was not far off. The whole town showed up and then some.

“Small town people the best in the world. You can't find any better people out here.”

Out he came, finally home. Then as he vowed, Hal walked into town from the town ball diamond, a hero's escort.

As he approached a packed downtown, those who prayed for his life all these months got to hug and hold the one they almost lost.

By name he called and greeted them. People he'd grown up with. Tonight they all admired this man of courage and determination. And he never gave up on himself, a short walk into town tonight, nothing like the journey of survival these last months.

A town tonight that rolled out main street, wrapped itself around one of its own to remind us all what it's like to hope and not only pray for miracles, but to look in the eyes of one.

Outside of town, a harvest complete. Autumn on Main Street it felt like spring. One man's fresh beginning back home starting over again.

A huge benefit is planned for Hal tomorrow night in Rutland, a dinner, auction, the works.

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