Skip to Main Content

The Girl Who Saw Heaven

A Fateful Tornado and a Journey of Faith

See More Retailers

About The Book

A remarkable true story of one child’s journey into the afterlife after surviving a super tornado.

When Ari Hallmark was in kindergarten, her family was caught in a powerful tornado in their hometown of Arab, Alabama. On April 27, 2011, Ari and her parents, Shane and Jennifer Hallmark, were putting the finishing touches on their new home, which Shane had built from scratch. Shane’s last-second decision to drive to his parent’s house put the Hallmarks directly in the path of a devastating EF4 tornado.

Moments after the Hallmarks arrived at the home, the mile-wide tornado ripped the house off its foundation and flung it in the air. When Ari regained consciousness, she began sharing the extraordinary story of what happened to her during the tornado: she met her guardian angel and followed her family to heaven. The full story of what Ari went through—the six months of reoccurring dreams that foretold the tragedy, and the unexpected challenges she faced from the legal system after the storm—delivers a powerful message to the world: you will see your late loved ones again.

Ari Hallmark is now a high school senior determined to share her hopeful message with the world. The Girl Who Saw Heaven is a uniquely poignant addition to near-death experience and heavenly encounter classics. Ari’s story will leave you with a different perspective of death and more hopeful of what lies beyond.


April 11, 2011

Vestavia Hills, Alabama

It began, simply enough, as air.

Air caught between the higher atmospheric pressure near the earth’s surface and the lower pressure in the surrounding atmosphere, a tension of warring meteorological forces that spun the air into wind.

Winds that grew stronger over the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico and began whirling in a counterclockwise circle, propelling themselves out of the Gulf and toward the US coast, where electrical energy and booming shock waves transformed them into thunderstorms.

A long, sturdy, rolling line of thunderstorms, weak as they swept over Mississippi, but intensifying as they crossed the border into central Alabama late in the afternoon of April 11.

Thunderstorms that rumbled fourteen miles northeast into Vestavia Hills, a quiet Birmingham suburb, where, at 7:29 p.m. (central time), their peak winds were measured at 100 mph—powerful enough to earn them a new meteorological designation.

The storms were now a tornado.

A tornado that touched down somewhere behind the Vestavia Hills Police Department building on Montgomery Highway, and from there ripped through the playground and picnic table area in nearby Byrd Park, snapping or uprooting thirty towering pine trees, knocking over numerous large hardwoods on the grounds of the Vestavia Country Club, and dislodging drywall fasteners on a home next to the club, one of several houses damaged by the winds or falling trees.

And then—the tornado was over. It lasted one minute. It had a small impact area—one hundred yards wide by a half mile long. Its 100 mph winds made it an EF1 tornado, the second-least-dangerous type on the EF Scale, which rates tornadoes from zero to five based on wind strength and damage. The EF1 on April 11 did not, luckily, kill a single soul, and it was seen, for the most part, as a relatively minor weather event.

Only later would meteorologists look back on the tornado and see it as something else altogether—a harbinger of what was yet to come.

About The Author

Emily Butler/Butler Studio

Dr. Lisa Reburn has a PhD in education and spent twenty-three years in K-12 education and eleven years in higher education. Lisa met Ari for the first time at the only five-casket visitation she’d ever attended. She was there to help Ari understand and participate in the sad event. This first meeting led to an unbreakable bond between the two of them, when two months later, Ari asked Lisa to help her tell her story. Lisa had no idea what saying yes to that simple request would entail. Lisa lives in Alabama with her husband, Tom.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 9, 2023)
  • Length: 336 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982189525

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

“An absolutely beautiful story. Ari’s near-death experience is a gift for all of the world, showing the connectedness we share with our loved ones beyond death. Highly recommended!”—EBEN ALEXANDER, MD, former Harvard neurosurgeon and author of Proof of Heaven, The Map of Heaven, and Living in a Mindful Universe

“This unbelievable story will break your heart, enthrall you, and challenge your views of an afterlife, but in the end, Ari’s glorious shared death experience will inspire and affirm your faith. Read it and be transformed. Required reading for anyone who’s going to die!” —WILLIAM J. PETERS, author of At Heaven’s Door and founder of the Shared Crossing Project

The Girl Who Saw Heaven is unique, inspiring, and healing. It’s a story for your heart and your soul that you’ll remember for the rest of your life. Ari has a spiritual assignment to share it with as many grieving adults and children as possible. Her story fills people with comfort, hope, and tears of joy! I’m one of only a few people who heard Ari’s account originally, and I’m delighted you’ll finally know it too. Please read it yourself and share it with others—they’ll thank you deeply for doing so.” —BILL GUGGENHEIM, coauthor of Hello from Heaven!

“A relatable yet eye-opening account for anyone coping with grief. Lisa Reburn’s carefully researched and beautifully written book thrusts the reader into a complicated yet compelling story. The Girl Who Saw Heaven highlights the power of relying on your faith and the Lord without feeling preachy or stiff and leaves you with hope and peace.” —CHRISTINE KILLIMAYER, WHNT news anchor and executive producer of the Emmy-nominated documentary 10 Years After the Storm

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images