Kentucky Tornado Carries Family Photo 130 Miles Away, Social Media Users Rally to Bring It Home


One small piece of a Kentucky family’s memories will survive despite the tornadoes that ripped through western Kentucky overnight Friday.

Katie Posten of New Albany, Indiana, wrote a social media message on Saturday that started it all.

“Walked out to my car in New Albany, IN and found this picture stuck to the window. Undoubtedly from a home that was struck by the tornado that ripped through Kentucky last night. Hoping to find its owners. It looks like it reads – Gertie Swatzell and JD Swatzell 1942 – pls RT,” she wrote.

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On Friday, tornadoes slammed through Kentucky, leaving more than 70 people dead and multiple communities dealing with massive damage.

Posten said that at first, she thought the photo was a note or receipt, according to NBC News.

“Seeing the date, I realized that was likely from a home hit by a tornado. How else is it going to be there?” Posten said. “It’s not a receipt. It’s a well-kept photo.”

Over time, social media users made the connection.

“A lot of people shared it on Facebook. Someone came across it who is friends with a man with the same last name, and they tagged him,” Posten said.

Cole Swatzell indicated that the photo belonged to relations in Dawson Springs, Kentucky, about 130 miles from New Albany.

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At least 12 Dawson Springs residents died in the storm, according to The Washington Post.

“We did preliminary searches looking for the injured, but now we’ve got to go through the rubble,” assistant police chief Lance Nosbusch said. “There are still so many missing, I fear there are still more for us to find, when we bring in the heavy equipment.”

Devastation is “everybody’s story here,” resident Bryan Williams said as he stood where his uncle’s house had been.

“We are all in it together. . . . Everybody knows everyone here, and everyone wants to help everyone, but you got to help yourself, too.

“And you can’t give somebody something to lean on when there is nothing, and right now there is nothing,” he said.

Dawson Springs was the home of former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear and current Gov. Andy Beshear.

“I’m emotional after two days,” Andy Beshear said Sunday. “Dawson’s a place where I’d go and I’d sit on my grandparents’ front porch.”

“You stand in the midst of this and everything you see — everything right, left, forward, backward — is gone,” Beshear said.

The journey of the photo is “unusual but not that unusual,” said John Snow, a meteorology professor at the University of Oklahoma, according to NBC.

“It gets swirled up,” Snow said. “The storm dissipates and then everything flutters down to the ground.”

Posten will get the photo to the Swatzell family sometime this week.

She noted that given the disruption in many communities, and the fact that the photo has been through enough already, she did not want to simply mail it.

“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,” Posten said, according to ABC News.

“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,'” she said.

This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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