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TORNADO TALES: DISASTER AND THEN SOME

A family of three killed by a tornado is in heaven together, a pastor said during a funeral Friday attended by so many mourners that the church had to televise the service in a gymnasium.

The Cherry family died Tuesday as they tried to quiet their horses on their rural lot as a tornado approached Atkins, Ark., a town of about 3,000 that was among the worst hit by the storms.

Bible Baptist Church Pastor Ron Kauffman said some family members told him they could see 10-year-old Emmy "sitting on Jesus' lap reading to him." "They wouldn't have wanted one to go without the other," he said.

The family's funeral was among the first for the 59 people killed as the tornadoes swept through Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee and Kentucky. President Bush tour areas Friday that were hit hard by the storms, which left the nation's highest tornado-related death toll in more than two decades.

Help came too late

LAFAYETTE, Tenn. - The couple could offer little but comforting words to the bleeding relative a tornado threw from his bed onto a mound of twisted aluminum and trees in the dead of night.

Help was on the way, Ray and Nona Story were told when they called 911, and they relayed that to Ray's uncle, Bill Clark, as he lay dying. For two hours, they waited as the weather worsened again.

"He laid there and talked to us," she recalled Friday. "He told us, 'I don't think I can make it.'"

It took two hours for an ambulance crew to negotiate the debris-lined rural roads to reach the threesome. That was two hours Clark, 73, didn't have.

Crash adds to misery

LAFAYETTE, Tenn. - The Rev. Michael Welch was doing what he could to help people recover after a twister killed 14 people in rural Macon County, Tenn., setting up his church as a family crisis center. Now, Welch, 51, and his family are among those being mourned. The family of four died Thursday when a truck struck their van.

"We're all just numb in disbelief," said Ruth Stafford, a secretary at the United Methodist Church that Welch had served since 2004. "We want to wake up from this nightmare."

In an interview a few hours before he died, Welch said, "We cling to God, because he's all we've got."

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