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Strangers pick up the pieces of tornado-torn lives

/ Source: msnbc.com

Remnants of a tattered last will and testament. A 1973 high school yearbook. A property deed. A paycheck stub. A photo of a girl next to a playground swing. A Valentine’s love note that reads in part, “From: My heart To: Yours.”

These are among the remnants of people's shattered lives found strewn across soggy streets, on rural farms and in back yards after the deadliest tornado outbreak to hit the U.S. in nearly four decades.

A Facebook page set up in the aftermath of the storms seeks to unite these pictures, documents and other mementos with their rightful owners — if they are still alive. More than 160 photos of lost-and-found belongings were already posted on the page by Thursday night, a day after the destructive twisters scissored through through Alabama and five other Southern states.

“My brother and I have found seven pictures in our yards. We live in Childersburg, Alabama, which was not hit yesterday,” a woman who gave her name as Kathy L. told msnbc.com in an email describing her find. “The only thing that we can tell is that they are billfold size and in one of them is a brown headed girl in a long red dress, one is a guy and it looks like 90 is pen written on the picture. It is sad that someone lost these and I only pray that pictures are all that they lost and not their life."

One woman posted to the Facebook page a picture of a stained check. “Found in Oneonta, Al. Check from Browns Dept store, Tuscaloosa, Al. Written to Alabama Gas Co. Dated 12/26/1980,” she wrote.

“I live in Attalla AL. We found this pic in our back yard,” wrote another woman who posted a faded picture of a barefoot, pig-tailed girl standing by what appears to be a backyard swing set. "Send me a message if it is your photo would love to see someone get something back.”

Another user posted a picture of a mixed-breed dog found homeless after a tornado in Arkansas. “Please share so he can find his family again,” the poster wrote.

Scraps of lives upended by the monster storms landed in strangers’ yards, sometimes dozens of miles away.

“We had a picture fall out of the sky while my husband and son was sitting on the porch,” one woman wrote. “The picture is of two young girls that look like they might be in a beauty contest. I would post it on here, but I don't know how!”

There were already some property reunions in the works, thanks to the power of social media.

One woman saw a picture posted to the Facebook page and recognized it immediately: It was her mother.

“I have emailed the wonderful woman who posted it,” she wrote. “Thank you thank you thank you and please keep posting.”

Some Facebook visitors offered to help scan or restore damaged photos. Others simply sent messages of condolence and heartfelt compassion.

The outpouring led one woman to praise the power of technology in helping people pick up the pieces.

"This page is truly a God sent. Houses, buildings, material things can always be rebuilt and replaced but some things like photos of family that have passed cannot," she wrote. "My dad died when I was small and photos are all I have. Possibly giving those things back to people who may have lost everything is absolutely priceless!