published Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

Storm debris discoveries inspire searches for owners

DALTON, Ga. — Address labels from 150 miles away. A picture of a young couple. A straight-A student’s report card. Bank stubs.

The mementos of the days before last week’s tornadoes are scattered across Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee — all that remain of some people’s lives after hundreds of homes were demolished and blown to the four winds.

Steve Ray, a Chattanooga resident, was stunned when he found the report card of a fifth-grader from Rainsville, Ala., in his backyard. Timothy White got straight A’s, Ray said.

He went online and found an email address for the school counselor. So far, Ray has not heard from the school but hopes to return the report card to its rightful owner.

“I just hope this young man is OK,” Ray said. “I’m worried about him.”

All across the region, people have turned to the Internet and social media to help them identify owners of the debris.

Patty Bullion, from Lester, Ala., created a Facebook page, “Pictures and Documents found after the April 27, 2011 Tornadoes,” as a virtual lost and found. The page has been “liked” by more than 83,000 people and has more than 1,600 pictures and documents uploaded.

Bullion, who lives a few miles northeast of the Quad Cities area in Northwest Alabama, started the page Wednesday evening after finding several pictures, including an ultrasound image, in her front yard after the storm passed.

“As a mother, I couldn’t imagine not getting that picture [ultrasound] back,” she said Monday afternoon. “So I talked with my kids about ways that we could find the people.”

Bullion, a 37-year-old mother of three, hoped to reach a few hundred people with her page, but by Thursday morning, she had 12,000 fans. Two days ago, the page had matched more than 200 items with their owners, but Bullion is too busy posting pictures and doing interviews to take a more updated count.

The thousands of posts on Bullion’s page are both heart-rending and heartwarming, as friends and family share memories of loved ones lost and find pictures they thought were lost. So far, the posted items include a child’s jacket, a graduation cap, a wedding ring and traffic tickets.

“I do not know anyone who was in the tornados, nor have I found any possessions ... I just want to say that when I saw this page I started to cry,” writes Tightwad Tobacco.

A woman identifies the photo of a woman and a blond little girl. The girl was injured and is in a hospital in Memphis, the post says.

“They lost everything, and I am sure she would love to have the picture back,” the woman writes.

A man tries to locate Robert Wooten, who is mentioned in a diary he found 70 miles away from Rainsville, Ala. The diary’s owners, Hubert and Juanita Izell Wooten, both were killed in the tornado that hit Rainsville.

“The success stories are unreal,” Bullion said. “But we want to keep it out there — so many people are just now getting power back. It’s my way of helping these people.”

about Mariann Martin...

Mariann Martin covers healthcare in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. She joined the Times Free Press in February 2011, after covering crime and courts for the Jackson (Tenn.) Sun for two years. Mariann was born in Indiana, but grew up in Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Belize. She graduated from Union University in 2005 with degrees in English and history and has master’s degrees in international relations and history from the University of Toronto. While attending Union, ...

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