Woman Makes Tornado Victims' Lost-and-Found

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As the tornadoes that devastated Alabama and much of the south raged outside her home, Patty Bullion watched the wind blow debris onto her lawn: family photos, a diploma, baby pictures, yearbook pages from a town miles away, a stock certificate from Tuscaloosa.

As the collection of mementos began to amass on Bullion's property, she said she started to feel that these memories scattered by the tornado needed to be reunited with their rightful owners.

"I got on Facebook right after the storm," Bullion said. "A friend of mine who lives down the road posted that it was raining pictures -- falling out of the sky."

That posting gave her an idea, she said.

She created a Facebook page and started posting images of the items found outside her home, hoping people might log on and find something that belonged to them.

The response has been overwhelming, she said.

In just over two days, the page has "over 50,000 hits and over 500 pictures or documents that have been found by people," Bullion said. A number of items have already been claimed, but many more remain unaccounted for -- memories stuck in an oddly modern digital lost-and-found.

Some of the items are deeply personal, like a pregnant woman's ultrasound and baby pictures that Bullion found. She said she is determined to return these personal items to their rightful owners.

"If this was the only baby picture they had, I wanted to make sure that they were returned," she said.

She said these "very personal memories" were irreplaceable; someone needed to return them, and she decided that someone would be her.

That might be a cause for comfort for her neighbors and others throughout the South still grappling with the reality of the destruction. Many continue to search through the rubble of what used to be their homes and communities, desperate to find anything that might have survived.

"We're kind of picking through, salvaging what we can. It's a lot of work," said Luke Niiler of Christ Lutheran Church in Cullman, Ala., a community literally destroyed by the storm.

As they pore through the debris, many residents are coming up empty -- but they determined, searching for what used to be treasured belongings and keepsakes. Journalism student Alison Smith was digging through the pile of rubble where her apartment once stood. Smith lost almost everything, save for one small victory.

"I'm going through what used to be our memory box. I found a picture ... and some letters and cards," Smith said. "This is what I wanted to find the most."

In a region destroyed by tornadoes, these small mementos are perhaps the most important items being pulled from the rubble, providing hope and comfort.

In Patty Bullion, there is at least one woman determined to help people find their valuable personal items.

As Bullion tries to do her part, a devastated region pulls together to begin healing. They are determined to rebuild -- not only for themselves, but for their communities as well.