Lacie Lowry, News On 6
JOPLIN, Missouri -- As Joplin students get used to homework again, a Pryor woman has an assignment of her own.
Angela Walters is collecting photos lost in the Joplin tornado and tracking down their owners. She's up to 30,000 pictures.
"Just to return as many of these memories to people as possible," Walters said.
Walters has turned her Pryor home into a huge temporary photo album for others' memories.
"It's just such an interesting view into the course of everyone's life," she said.
Baby pictures, wedding photos, candid moments that all mean something to someone.
"It is very intimate to hold it and to know that it was in their home and it was on their mantle or in their desk and it somehow found its way to me," she said.
Walters started the project right after the May 22, 2011 tornado to centralize the effort to return such personal belongings scattered in the storm.
She dedicated a website and a facebook page to get the word out.
"Within two hours there were hundreds of people scanning photos," Walters said.
Walters now has 30,000 photos and gets hundreds more each day. She scans them, catalogs them then sends them to the owners for free.
Walters teamed up with the First Baptist Church of Carthage, Missouri, where 30 volunteers do the same thing.
"Someone will say, "Oh my gosh, that's my mom, Oh my gosh, that's my baby." It's just so, so rewarding," she said.
While News On 6 was shooting this story, she found the owner of one photo. She had only posted the picture a few hours before.
"This project has really renewed my faith in human kind, it's the community coming together and there's a lot of love in the process," Walters said.
Walters has secured 13 drop-off locations around Missouri and photos are couriered to the processing center every day.