By Kelly Kazek
In remembrance of the April 27 deadly tornado outbreak six months ago, residents are invited to pause for reflection at 8 a.m. today in the Storytelling Festival tent on Marion Street.
The moment of silence will be held by Athens and Limestone County officials to “honor the community as it came together and responded to those in need,” a press release stated.
Chris Preston, a victim of the April 27 outbreak, will lead the group in prayer. Preston’s home, business and church — , Bethel Church of Christ — were destroyed that day, as well as the homes of his family members.
The event also will be held in memory of the four people who lost their lives in Limestone County, and others with local connections who were among the 247 killed across the state that day.
The victims were:
Janice and Glen Riddle
Janice Riddle and her husband, Glen Riddle, were hailed as heroes who gave their lives to save the children they were raising. The Riddles died April 27 when they were blown from their mobile home on Rosie Road while sheltering Janice’s grandchildren, Savannah, 4; Katie, 6; and Blake, 9.
At about 4 p.m., when a twister bore down on the Riddles’ home, Janice, Glen and Janice’s brother, Kenneth Montgomery, covered the children with their bodies. The children were seriously injured but survived the ordeal.
The Riddles are among four killed in Limestone County, and three others with local connections killed in tornadoes in Tuscaloosa and Hackleburg. Hundreds were injured.
Jan Turner McElyea, 47, of Athens, also died April 27 when her car was blown from U.S. 31 as she was driving toward home. She left Nextek Inc. on Alabama 20 at about 4 p.m., traveled along Interstate 565 and started the drive down U.S. 31, unaware she was heading into the path of a massive twister.
That evening, McElyea’s son, Seth, 21, tried repeatedly to call his mother but got no response.
Helicopter searches continued into the evening, and a searchlight soon shone on a mangled car in the field behind Bethel Freewill Baptist Church near the Binford Turner Water Treatment Facility. Its occupant was identified as Jan McElyea from papers inside the car. She also is survived by her parents, Frank Wesley “Bootie” and Maudie Turner.
Shannon Gail Sampson, 40, of Madison, was killed while at the home of her grandmother, Bobbi “Sue” Eady, 75, on Chipmunk Way in eastern Limestone County.
Shannon Sampson had driven to “Gran Gran’s” house to check on her as the storm struck.
She was running to the house carrying her purse and her little dog Buddy when she was picked up by the torrent.
Eady was seriously injured and spent weeks in Huntsville Hospital.
Other victims from Limestone
Among those killed by storms outside Limestone County were Loryn Brown, 21, daughter of Ardmore High School football coach Shannon Brown. The University of Alabama student died in the twister that struck Tuscaloosa.
Two former Elkmont residents, Charles T. Garner, 75, and Mae E. Surovich Garner, 78, were killed April 27 when tornadoes struck Hackleburg. The couple, who lived in Hackleburg as children, had moved back to the town after living in Elkmont for several decades.