100-Mile Journey: Kentucky Co-op Returns Photo to Tennessee Family After Tornado

This photo of a toddler was found by a co-op employee in Lindseyville, Kentucky, the morning after a tornado 100 miles away in Clarksville, Tennessee. (Photo Courtesy: Nolin RECC)

A Kentucky co-op employee helped boost the spirits of tornado victims after finding a family keepsake blown far away from home in a dangerous storm that devastated Clarksville, Tennessee, last month.

Nolin Rural Electric Cooperative Corp. line technician and part-time dispatcher Kish Browning spent part of his Saturday shift watching severe weather threaten the central states on Dec. 9. When the worst of the massive storm system never reached the Elizabethtown-based co-op’s service territory, he headed home to Lindseyville after his 12-hour shift.

Kish Browning, a Nolin RECC line technician-dispatcher, found a photo of a little girl the morning after a tornado hit Clarksville, Tennessee, and returned it to her family with the help of social media. (Photo Courtesy: Nolin RECC)

Following a Sunday morning jog, he was cutting across his sister’s yard when he noticed colorful crumpled paper on the ground.

“I picked it up and saw that it was a photo of a little girl curled up on a small shipping box,” said Browning. The words “She was so excited” were scrawled on the back of the photo—and a stamp indicated it had been printed at a Walgreens in Clarksville.

“I knew Clarksville, Tennessee, had taken a big hit from a tornado. That was 100 miles away, but I thought it might be storm debris,” he said.

Browning contacted Nolin RECC Communications Manager Sarah Fellows for help in getting the photo back to its owners.

“Sarah’s a real media whiz, so I thought she might be able to help,” Browning said. “She put together a Facebook post and, within hours, it had been shared 600 times.”

By the next day, the toddler’s relatives saw the photo and contacted the co-op to arrange its return.

“Without social media, I don’t know how this could’ve ever happened as far as finding out who it belonged to, and especially as quick as it did,” said Browning. “There’s a good chance they lost a lot from the storm, so having this memory of a child who’s now older means a lot.”

Fellows mailed the photo back and passed on offers from a photographer to restore the damp and crumpled photo free of charge.

“The little girl looks so happy and carefree,” she said. “They even took the time to write on the back of the photo about that moment, so it clearly was special for the person who saved it.”

Browning loves happy endings and is grateful to have found a way to reunite the photo with its owners.

“Both my kids are in high school now, but those early memories of their childhood still make me smile,” he said. “Getting this picture back to that little girl’s family gives them something to feel good about.”

Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.