By Kelly Kazek
Olympic gold-medal skier Picabo Street’s voice cracked with tears Wednesday as she remembered April 27, 2011.
“When you’re standing in your driveway and you hear a tornado going by 15 minutes south of you and one going by 15 minutes north of you and you know all those people are being affected, you feel empty,” Street said in the parking lot of Hibbett Sporting Goods in Cullman, where the second leg of the fundraising even Bo Bikes Bama ended.
Sports legend Bo Jackson organized the five-day event in an effort to raise $1 million for the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund that aids tornado victims. Joining Wednesday’s ride from Lake Guntersville State Park to Cullman were NBA superstar Scottie Pippen and baseball star Ken Griffey Jr.
Street, who lives in northern Jefferson County, said she didn’t have a chainsaw to help people clear debris after the storms so joining Jackson’s bike ride was her way of helping.
“It’s my way of filling that empty feeling,” she said.
The ride will end Saturday in Tuscaloosa, which was hit hard by the storms of April 27, with a memorial where names of each of the state’s 247 victims will be read.
Limestone County remembrance
Four people were killed in Limestone County when an EF5 twister tore through Tanner, across U.S. 72, into East Limestone, Capshaw and Harvest.
A local memorial event will be held at 10 a.m. Friday, marking one year after the event.
Members of the Tornado Remembrance and Awareness Committee are hosting the remembrance ceremony and groundbreaking of a Limestone County tornado memorial at Bethel Cemetery on U.S. 72. Attendees are asked to park at the site of Bethel Church of Christ, which was leveled by the tornado, and ride a shuttle provided by RSVP to the nearby cemetery.
Seven tornadoes struck the county on April 27; 62 tornadoes hit across Alabama, killing 247 people.
TRAC members have been working diligently with people of Bethel Church of Christ Cemetery and with Al Burns and Matt Burns of Precision Masonry on a plan for the monument, which will be a tribute to first responders and volunteers, as well as a memorial to all those who have died from tornadoes in Limestone County. Victims of the storms have donated bricks to the project. The design will be revealed the day of the event.
The program will include prayers from pastors of churches struck by the twisters, a rendition of “Amazing Grace” by Renee Stubblefield, who lost a cousin to the tragedy, comments from local and state leaders, recognition of family members of those who died, a symbolic groundbreaking of the memorial and a closing prayer.
For information, contact Kelly Kazek at 256-348-1348.
A tribute to Shannon
Family and friends of the late Shannon Sampson, 39, one of the four people killed in the April 27, 2011, tornado that struck eastern Limestone County, will dedicate a memorial park at 5 p.m. Friday at 134 Highland Lane in Madison, near the home of Cindy Mitchell. The public and media are invited.
The family has named the site Gillwood Park in honor of an amusing mix-up that occurred when Shannon was a girl attending vacation Bible school. At the time, Shannon’s name was Shannon Gail Rudd. But because she spoke so rapidly when telling the teacher her name, the teacher thought Shannon said Shannon Gillwood. The certificate the girl received at the end of Bible school listed her as such, which amused family members.
Rebuilding block party
A rebuilding block party, hosted by Sherry and Steve Sims on Winfred Drive, will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday for residents in the Tanner community affected by the April 27, 2011 tornadoes. Residents invited to the party include homeowners from Bridgeforth Road, Ingram Road, Stewart Road, Winfred Drive and Rosie Road as well as others. The event will include activities for children such as inflatables and face painting as well as live entertainment and a barbecue. A memorial service will be held at 8 p.m. for two neighbors, Glenn and Janice Riddle, who lost their lives in the storm.
More information about the event will be published in Friday’s edition of The News Courier.
— Jean Cole and Lora Scripps contribbuted to this report.