The tornadoes followed each other as if guided by rails, three times over 10 terrifying hours, straight at the little cluster of homes where Joseph Wayne Haney and his relatives lived.
The first crushed Haney's wife to death under a piano. The second twisted menacingly overhead but didn't touch down. And the third, a true monster, blew the neighborhood to pieces, killing two more of his kin.
On a day that sowed heartbreak throughout the South, this close-knit family received more than its share of the sky's rage.
"It came back," Haney said, blinking back tears outside a funeral home on Saturday. "It came back the same path, and it killed more."
In Pisgah, like elsewhere, it happened with blinding speed.
Haney was asleep in the living room recliner when his wife, Kathy Gray Haney, woke him.
"She said, 'I think there's a tornado,'" Haney said. "And just as she said the word 'tornado,' it hit us."
Their mobile home heaved into the air and slammed into a line of trees. Their piano landed on the couple, and the rest of the house collapsed on top of it. The family Bible landed next to them.
As the wind screamed, Haney said, he wrapped his arms around his wife's legs and tried to pull her to him.
"She said 'Honey, I love you, and I'm hurting,'" Haney said.
This week was supposed to be a joyous one for the Haneys and their extended family. Their niece, Whitney Lawhorn, was getting married on Monday, and the whole family was invited.
The Haneys themselves had been married 23 years. They met at a dance at the VFW hall and tied the knot just six months later.
Haney, now 45 and known to everyone as just Wayne, was something of a ne'er-do-well back then, he said. But with her smile and her twinkling brown eyes, Kathy had straightened him out.
Kathy, 46, liked to take walks in the woods, dig for wild ginseng and collect Indian arrowheads, said her sister, Peggy Lawhorn. She played piano at the New Hermon Baptist Church until a stroke last year paralyzed her left arm.
"She'd do anything for you anytime she could," Whitney Lawhorn said. "She didn't care who you were, she wanted to talk to you."
The family was close, Peggy Lawhorn said, with a half-dozen Grays and their spouses all living in a cluster of homes within a half-mile of each other on the verdant northern edge of a plateau known as Sand Mountain.
The mountain itself bears much of the blame for what happened Wednesday, said Richard Lawhorn, Haney's brother-in-law. Jutting 900 feet above the Tennessee River, the flat-topped mountain practically scrapes the bottom clouds of eastward-moving storms.
"It all gets swirled up and comes tearing over the bluff," Richard Lawhorn said.
Of the 342 dead from Wednesday's storms, 33 were in Alabama's DeKalb County, much of which is perched on Sand Mountain.
Richard Lawhorn was the first to get to Haney's collapsed mobile home. As he neared the wreckage, he could hear Haney shouting for help. But there was no sound from Kathy.
The family used a tractor with a front-loader attachment to lift the debris. It took 90 minutes for an ambulance crew to pick its way through the fallen trees, and another 90 minutes to get Haney back to the hospital.
Suddenly a second twister materialized, coiling like a snake in the turbulent sky. But it didn't touch down, passing a little to the north of Pisgah.
Then, at 4:30 p.m., another monstrous funnel appeared. It crashed through the trees and obliterated the house of Kathy's 90-year-old great-uncle, Herbert Satterfield, and his wife, Ann, who was in her 70s.
When the wind settled down, there was nothing left of the house but a few cracked cinder blocks and some shattered pieces of floor.
On Saturday, the family buried Kathy in the cemetery of the Friendship Baptist Church. Chainsaws buzzed in the distance. Smoke from burning debris wafted over the graves.
Herbert and Ann would be buried in the coming days.
The wedding was postponed. The judge who was supposed to have performed the marriage lost his own son in a tornado in Tuscaloosa.
The last flowers were piled on Kathy's grave. Family members embraced, then climbed into their pickup trucks and headed home to resume the cleanup.
"It doesn't seem right that one family should get hit twice," Richard Lawhorn said. "But at least we've got each other to get through it."
Associated Press Writer Michael Rubinkam contributed to this report.