Lost and Found in the Storm

May 18th, 2011 by Andrea Bennett

A Facebook page to return items lost in Southern storms gains traction.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

A CNN story from late last month reported on a new group on Facebook that had created a page to try and link tornado victims with photos, documents and other personal items that had been found miles and miles away from home.

The page,  “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes,” lets members post photographs of things they’ve found, along with their email addresses, in order to reunite even the smallest tidbits to owners who may have lost everything.

The day after the Facebook page was created, it had more than 42,000 “likes” and showed more than 450 images of found items, including “a child’s Raggedy Ann blanket; a Tuscaloosa County, Alabama, mortgage document; and an ultrasound image of a fetus.”

Since then, the “likes” have increased to more than 103k, and offers of skilled goodwill are streaming in. “MeaganNGavin” from Steens, Ala. posted that the Bear Creek Hunting Club of Red Bay searched nearby Smithville on 4-wheelers and turning over items to her grandmother, who would be sending them all to her to scan, post and hopefully return to owners.

Aleasha Halsey, a photographer in Cincinnati, Ohio, announced she’d like to come down in late summer and help families who’d lost everything “make new memories.” An Alabama photographer, Keri LeMaster, volunteered to digitally repair photos damaged in the storm.

The page's creator, Patty Bullion, told CNN that the inspiration for the Facebook group came when the worst of last month’s storm flew past about 10 miles from her home in northern Alabama. "When it went over us, it literally just started raining pictures," she said. "We got parts of Bibles, hymnals. ... I just started saying, ‘There are parts of people's lives falling out of the sky.'” By the following afternoon, 13 documents had been identified and were on their way to their owners.

Instructions on the site say “Please post pictures or picture of other items that were found as debris after the 4/27/2011 tornadoes…Please leave a brief description of how someone can find you if they identify pictures or items that belong to them.

One poster’s emotions were apparent in her message about a photograph of a shredded receipt. “I am praying for (the person whose name was on the receipt)," she wrote. "I don't know him but I am praying he is safe. I found this receipt in my front yard this morning. I live 58 miles away in Crestline in Birmingham. Alabamians are suffering and displaced and I pray that they find a way to put it all back together again. I don't know if this is important for him, but it has affected me deeply."