As Kentucky residents go about the business of picking up the wreckage left behind by last week’s destructive tornadoes, some are finding more than just run-of-the-mill debris.
Some are finding keepsakes and photographs that traveled hundreds of miles.
“It’s heart-wrenching to think everyone’s lives now are scattered across the state,” Brad Hale, a Crestwood, Ky., resident told the Washington Post.
Hale found a photograph in his yard of an older woman seated in a folding chair. On the back was written “Ruby Tucker in Aug 1981.”
After learning the photo did not belong to any of his neighbors, he posted it on Facebook in a group dedicated to reuniting tornado victims with the precious mementos they lost in the storms. He learned it originated in a storage unit in the town of Bremen, 120 miles away.
John Knox, an associate professor of geography at the University of Georgia, told the Post that photos taking flight and landing miles away from their homes is a common occurrence in major storms.
“They’re like little wings when they go up into the air,” he said.
Knox has been tracking the landing spots of tornado debris since 2011 via a Facebook page where tornado victims can post the things they find that don’t belong to them, in hopes of reuniting them with their owners.
The page also helps Knox and other researchers learn more about how objects are carried off by tornado winds.
“We were able to make a little bit of lemonade from a whole lot of lemons and understand a little more about tornadoes, especially their aftermath,” Knox said.
And as for the picture of Ruby Tucker? It is now back in the hands of Tucker’s great-granddaughter Stephanie Burger, who told the Post that the picture belonged to her 84-year-old grandmother.
Burger said she’s happy to have the photo back, as not many exist of her great-grandmother. It’s something she’ll be happy to pass down to future generations.
And now she’s got quite the story to go along with it.