OPELIKA, Ala. — Roads piled with remnants.
Homes cut to rubble.
In Lee County, Alabama, these images define a tragedy.
They don’t define the community that has emerged in its wake.
In this case, the community extends 50 miles from where the tornadoes touched down.
“We went out looking for little treasures," says Heidy McConnell of Harris County, Georgia. "I guess we found some treasures, but they didn’t belong to us.”
Heidy and grandson Ty went walking around their yard when they discovered items from the Alabama tornado. They found a wall panel, book pages, and a photo.
"I know if it was me, and I lost all my pictures, I would take back whatever I could,” she told 11Alive reporter Matt Pearl. "I was like, ‘That had to come from Beauregard.’”
Beauregard was the center of the storm. But soon after the storm passed, new images emerged. Items from homes in Alabama wound up in Georgia. A Facebook group began called “Lost Treasures and Photographs for Beauregard Tornado Victims.”
That's how Heidy's photo found its rightful owner, LaShawn Wilson of Opelika, Alabama. She lost her home. So did her mother next door. They both suffered injuries during the storm, but they remain grateful for their lives.
LaShawn was grateful as well when she saw her belongings popping up online.
“I knew that one immediately," she says of Heidy's photo. "I was like, ‘That’s me! That’s mine!’ It’s one picture … it’s a half of a picture … but it’s mine.
"To know I still have something … it may seem like nothing, but it’s something, you know?”
Last Friday Heidy and LaShawn met in Opelika. They spoke. They hugged. And LaShawn's photo came home.
"This is not a tiny bit," she said. "These little pieces are gonna help piece us together."
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