The “Quad State Tornado Found Items” Facebook group has been reconnecting people with their lost pets, official documents and family photos after deadly storms hit Kentucky and surrounding areas – Copyright AFP Pedro PARDO
Abigail Miller’s parents lost practically all they owned in the weekend twisters that ravaged their small Kentucky town.
But with the help of strangers, they tracked down photographs of their daughter’s graduation — via social media groups which thousands are using to reconnect storm victims with cherished possessions strewn many miles away.
In preparation for a move, Miller’s parents had placed all their belongings in a storage unit in Dawson Springs, among the places hardest hit when tornadoes ripped homes apart across five US states last weekend.
The young pharmacy tech, who lives out of state, was relieved to hear they had evacuated ahead of the storm, but devastated to find out about their lost belongings.
“We didn’t expect to find anything,” said the 19-year-old.
But she soon noticed that an old schoolmate had shared a photo of her in a Facebook group called “Quad State Tornado Found Items.”
Then she got tagged in another photo in the group.
“Is this you?” commented the poster, Lisa Graham.
“Yes it is me and my parents,” Miller replied, “Thank you so much!”
The photos of Abigail Miller, with her parents at her high school graduation, had flown all the way to Philpot, Kentucky, almost an hour and a half away by car.
More of their photographs were found by others in Philpot, and each finder was more than willing to mail them back.
“Some even asked what our family needed for Christmas,” she said.
– ‘That’s my memaw!’
The “Quad State Tornado Found Items” group now has over 66,000 members, and is growing by the hour.
People are using the group to help reconnect lost pets, official documents, and hundreds of family photos — each item offering a glimpse into the lives upended by the tornadoes.
One shows a father in the year 2000, holding his newborn baby in hospital.
Another shows two men in tuxedos at a 1980s wedding.
A few black-and-white photos show young men in uniforms during World War II.
The original owners are often identified within minutes through crowdsourcing, as family members and friends tag their loved ones in the comments section.
“That’s my memaw! I’ll message you!” Dani Runkel commented under a torn photo of her grandmother holding a Christmas present.
Other messages reveal the tragedy that has struck many families.
“This is my uncle who died in the tornado,” reads a comment below a torn yearbook photo.
“This is my grandmother,” a woman commented below an image of a 1998 funeral pamphlet. “It’s from my dad’s house that was destroyed in Princeton KY.”
– ‘I’d want the same thing’ –
Beyond family photos, tornado victims are also using online groups to reconnect with their pets.
Laura Pratt, a teacher in western Kentucky, was anxious when her husband called to say he had found a stray dog while helping a friend with storm clean-up — and was bringing it home.
“I’ve got a dog, I didn’t know how it would react. I also knew my son would fall in love with her,” said Pratt.
She knew for certain however that her husband did the right thing.
“That’s your family member. If my dog was missing, I’d want the same thing.”
Pratt’s dog had run away before, so she knew there were dedicated Facebook groups for finding missing pets.
She posted photos of the dog, a blind dachshund with a big brown spot on her head.
A few people reached out offering to buy the animal if its owner could not be found.
Three days later came a message from Shari Howard of Benton, another town in western Kentucky hit by tornadoes:
“This is my dog! My house and everything got destroyed! Where can I find her? Her name is Willow!”
When Pratt went to meet with her, she knew she had found the right person.
“As soon as the lady picked her up, she relaxed — you knew she was meant to be with her.”
On social media, “you see good in people, you see bad,” said Pratt.
But in the tornado aftermath, she takes pride in the number of strangers offering assistance online and organizing drives.
“It shows the strength of our community.”
UK teen died after ‘negative effects of online content’: coroner
Molly Russell was exposed to online material ‘that may have influenced her in a negative way’ – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Philip FONG
A 14-year-old British girl died from an act of self harm while suffering from the “negative effects of online content”, a coroner said Friday in a case that shone a spotlight on social media companies.
Molly Russell was “exposed to material that may have influenced her in a negative way and, in addition, what had started as a depression had become a more serious depressive illness,” Andrew Walker ruled at North London Coroner’s Court.
The teenager “died from an act of self-harm while suffering depression”, he said, but added it would not be “safe” to conclude it was suicide.
Some of the content she viewed was “particularly graphic” and “normalised her condition,” said Walker.
Russell, from Harrow in northwest London, died in November 2017, leading her family to set up a campaign highlighting the dangers of social media.
“There are too many others similarly affected right now,” her father Ian Russell said after the ruling.
“At this point, I just want to say however dark it seems, there is always hope.
“I hope that this will be an important step in bringing about much needed change,” he added.
The week-long hearing became heated when the family’s lawyer, Oliver Sanders, took an Instagram executive to task.
A visibly angry Sanders asked Elizabeth Lagone, the head of health and wellbeing at Meta, Instagram’s parent company, why the platform allowed children to use it when it was “allowing people to put potentially harmful content on it”.
“You are not a parent, you are just a business in America. You have no right to do that. The children who are opening these accounts don’t have the capacity to consent to this,” he said.
Lagone apologised after being shown footage, viewed by Russell, that “violated our policies”.
Of the 16,300 posts Russell saved, shared or liked on Instagram in the six-month period before her death, 2,100 related to depression, self-harm or suicide, the inquest heard.
Children’s charity NSPCC said the ruling “must be a turning point”.
“Tech companies must be held accountable when they don’t make children’s safety a priority,” tweeted the charity.
“This must be a turning point,” it added, stressing that any delay to a government bill dealing with online safety “would be inconceivable to parents”.
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