Group Works to Reunite Tornado Victims with Lost Photos

When an EF-4 tornado ripped through Garland and Rowlett the night of Dec. 26, 2015, it didn't just destroy homes, it sucked out pictures and personal items inside, carrying them for miles and miles away.

Now the organization National Disaster Photo Rescue is dedicated to reuniting homeowners with lost pictures.

"You imagine the closure it will bring for that family and they see the picture and it may be the only one they have left," organizer Thad Beeler of Carthage, Missouri, said.

Beeler started the organization after an EF-5 tornado destroyed his parents' home in Joplin, Missouri, in 2011. He and volunteers went around collecting scattered pictures and were able to reunite 700 families with lost photos.

"So you take that image," Beeler said, holding up a photo of a young boy. "And you say, 'I don't know who this child is, but I'm going to see this goes back home.'"

Right now, Beeler and volunteers are in Rowlett and Garland walking the streets collecting hundreds of pictures and personal belongings, such as credit cards, marriage licenses and birth certificates.

Anything officials is turned over to authorities, but the pictures, Beeler and his crew will clean them, document them, then scan the pictures and post them on the organization's website and Facebook pages.

"That's the point where families come along and say, 'That's my picture!'" he said.

Beeler said the group is able to reunite more than 50 percent of their finds to families.

Volunteer Cita Sue Cox, a photo organizer, said the pictures are more than just a snapshot.

"It triggers all those memories," she said. "You think you're going to remember everything, and you don't! I mean, there's a lot of memories. It's something you can pass down that's tangible. It's your history! Part of your legacy."

Cox said families can rebuild their homes, but often times they can't replace their pictures, especially older ones.

"It's not something they can go buy," she said. "I can buy a new couch or new clothes. They can't go buy this.".

If you find lost pictures, volunteer or search for pictures in regards to the National Disaster Photo Rescue, you can visit their website at or call them at 417-793-3044.

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