Storm Survivors Dig Through Debris to Find Memories Swept Up in Tornado

By Mark Geary, Reporter

Tornado victims in Parkersburg find the baby photo of a recently deceased family member in the storm damage. A block away, they also found their family member's ring.

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By Michelle Long

(PARKERSBURG) - People in Parkersburg spent all day shovelling, sweeping and cleaning, but you could barely tell that anyone has made any progress. It's a time-consuming, heartbreaking job but families believe its worth it.

Deb Held and a team of her friends and family spent hours sorting through memories that once filled her father's home at 804 Florence Street in Parkersburg.

"We're trying to find pictures and collectibles," Held said, "We've been on our hands and knees sifting through stuff."

Deb's father Vinton Christopherson could barely speak when he saw what the tornado had done. Now he's thanking everyone for helping him clean up.

"I think you see it around town, how everybody is pitching in to help everybody and I think that pretty much sums up Parkersburg," said Christopherson who lost his home to the tornado.

Christopherson decided to spend the Memorial Day weekend with family in Waterloo at the last minute, and it was a decision that could have saved his life.

"Three of the casualties were right up here in the corner," he said, "They were practically my neighbors. The next two houses over, both of them were gone, too."

The family had to bury several loved ones over the past few years and losing the home brought back all of those emotions.

"My mom is gone, and my two brothers are gone, and all of the memories with them in this house are now gone too so it's kind of hard," Held said.

Everyone tried to stay upbeat as they shoveled and sorted, and then finally they found something. They uncovered a baby picture of Vinton's son and Deb's brother, Darwin Christopherson, who passed away just months ago. Moments later a neighbor found Darwin's ring a few blocks away.

"Maybe he's trying to help us. Maybe that's his way of letting us know that he's with us," Held said.

The chances of coming across anything that small in a mess this big are slim, but the feeling of finding something you never thought you'd see again makes dealing with the disaster a little more bearable.

Emergency crews shut down the affected part of town at 8 o'clock Monday night to give electrical crews a chance to work and also to help keep everyone's belongings safe. People can come back starting at 6 AM Tuesday morning.

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