20 years later: Church remembers 20 killed by March 27 tornado - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

20 years later: Church remembers 20 killed by March 27 tornado

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PIEDMONT, Ala. -

Randy Coleman drove Thursday from Birmingham to Piedmont in order to visit a memorial, as he does every March 27.

His best friend, Kay Watson, was one of 20 people who died when a tornado struck Goshen United Methodist Church on March 27, 1994.  Watson's husband, Derek, and her 18-month old daughter, Jessica, were among the victims.

"It's on my calendar," Coleman said of his annual trip to the site of the tragedy.

"It helps me still have her in my life.  I still have a big photo of her at home that reminds me of her and the way she lived her life.  I only aspire to live half as well a life as she lived."

Coleman shared his story from the day of the tornado on James Spann's Weather Blog.

Many others will return to the site Sunday for a memorial service.

Rhonda DeHaven and Sharla Parris are longtime members who were there when the tornado struck.

"I remember that it was a beautiful morning.  It was very sunny and very warm," DeHaven said.

"That day I thought it was wonderful that it was 70 degrees.  I had bought a new dress the day before and it was a sleeveless dress, and so because it was warm, I could wear it."

Then it started to rain.  The sky got dark as a thunderstorm arrived, bringing hail.

"Something broke through, actually one of the stained glass windows, is when we really realized what was bad," DeHaven said.

She remembers her aunt yelling about a tornado and telling people to take cover.  She tried to get to the nursery where her young son was, but a wall caved in and the roof collapsed.

DeHaven suffered a head injury.  Sharla Parris said she had debris in her hair and clothes, but had no significant injuries.

"I was very, very near some that were so critically injured, and to be right that close and not be injured myself, it was a blessing," Parris said.

"It's all sort of a blur.  I remember getting ready for everything, the activities for the day and then sitting there as the music started, and everything just getting darker and darker and then something flying through the window and then getting down under the pew."

Fourteen adults and six children--including Hannah Clem, the pastor's four-year-old daughter--did not survive.  Church members and the community will gather Sunday morning at 9 a.m. for the memorial service.

"It will have some sadness to it, but some joys to be with the people that were there, and to be in our new facility, it will be good," Parris said.

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