HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The devastation from the Oklahoma storms is bringing back memories for some folks in the Tennessee Valley. Kelly Clem is pastor who was in Piedmont, Alabama in 1994 when a tornado touched down. That twister touched down, destroying her church and taking the life of her first-born daughter, Hannah.
“I was sitting on the front row because I was singing with the choir,” said Clem. “My daughter, Hannah, was on the front row on the other side with other children.” Clem was the pastor of the United Methodist Church when a twister unexpectedly swarmed through the sanctuary that fateful day.
“I remember looking down and I had my robe on and the church had made my robe for me,” she said. “I thought well, gosh I’m the pastor here so I looked up and I just prayed help.” Clem was not only a pastor that day, but also a mother to two of the children that were in the sanctuary for the Palm Sunday service.
“I needed to know they were okay,” she said. “I knew right where Hannah was because she was so close to me and I looked up and I didn`t see her.” Hannah was under a pew that had collapsed when the tornado hit the sanctuary. Clem’s daughter Sarah survived the storm, but Hannah did not.
Today, Clem serves as the pastor of Holmes Street United Methodist Church in Huntsville. The Oklahoma tornadoes hit home for her because she understands what the victims are going through. She shared her words of hope and courage for those who are fighting a battle similar to the one she fought 19 years ago. “We live in a natural world,” said Clem. “Tornadoes happen and people die but God never leaves and we always have the assurance that God is with us and God will get us through it, you can get through it.”
Clem has two other daughters, Sarah and Laurel. She said they still visit Hannah’s grave and celebrate her birthday every year. Hannah’s grave was recently covered in a field of forget-me-not flowers, a gesture that Kelly finds very fitting for her late child.