Historic tornadoes swept across six states in December 2021, leaving utter destruction in their paths.
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Victims in Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, and Tennessee are now sifting through the wreckage in hopes of salvaging as many of their belongings as possible. Sadly, losing cherished heirlooms and photos was inevitable for many area residents.
The morning after the deadly storms passed through, Katie Posten of New Albany, Indiana, was relieved to step outside and see no damage in her area. She’d been warily monitoring the news to see how close the tornadoes would come to her home, which is located just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky.
As she headed to her car, she spotted a piece of paper stuck to her windshield. Once she saw what it was, she knew it had to be a memento that someone would miss.
The photograph in her hand showed a woman holding a child in her lap. On the back, the handwritten caption read, “Gertie Swatzell & J.D. Swatzell 1942.”
“Seeing the date, I realized that was likely from a home hit by a tornado. How else is it going to be there?” Katie said. “It’s not a receipt. It’s well-kept photo.”
Hoping to get the photo back to its owner, Katie turned to Facebook. “Walked out to my car in New Albany, Indiana and found this picture stuck to the window,” she wrote. “The tornado that ripped through Kentucky last night seems to have dissipated just a bit southwest of us, and it’s said to have carried debris up into the sky up to 7 miles or more, so no doubt that it came from a home in the path of destruction. Sharing in hopes of finding its owners.”
The post was shared widely across Facebook, and it didn’t take long for someone to recognize the last name written on the back of the picture. Cole Swatzell was tagged, and he soon commented to say the photo belongs to his family in Dawson Springs, Kentucky. That means the photo traveled more than 150 miles to land on Katie’s car!
Katie said she’s grateful the social media platform was able to connect her with the Swatzell family, and she looks forward to getting the picture back to them. This experience left her with a renewed appreciation for the ability to connect with others using technology — and for how powerful wind can be!
“It’s really remarkable, definitely one of those things, given all that has happened, that makes you consider how valuable things are — memories, family heirlooms, and those kinds of things,” she said. “It shows you the power of social media for good. It was encouraging that immediately there were tons of replies from people, looking up ancestry records, and saying ‘I know someone who knows someone and I’d like to help.'”
Best of all, she’s not the only one helping total strangers! A Facebook page was set up specifically to reunite people with belongings lost during the storm. Quad State Tornado Found Items already has over 57,000 members and has helped hundreds of people recover their beloved items.
It’s incredible to think a piece of paper could fly that far and yet be completely unscathed. We’re so glad Katie and others in her shoes are using social media to help strangers pick up the pieces after the devastating tornados.
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