Driving home this past Tuesday, I happened to catch part of The Story radio program hosted by Dick Gordon. The broadcast shares personal stories of the tornado that ripped apart the town of Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011, killing 161 people.
The interview I heard was with Angela Walters – a young mother driven to gather family photographs scattered as far as 100 miles away. Inspired by survivors saying “I’d give anything for my photographs,” she has been contributing 40-60 hours each week for the past year – overseeing the collecting, cataloging, and safeguarding of unclaimed photos – upwards of 20,000! How moving it was to hear of the emotions experienced as many photos were reunited with their families.
As a professional photographer and amateur genealogist, I am compelled to remind others of the importance of capturing family memories and safeguarding photos for future generations.
Angela’s advice? 1) Put names on all family photographs. 2) Keep photos near your disaster bag and grab both in an emergency. To which I would add… 3) Make archival copies of your digital photos. Save them to external drives, DVDs, a cloud service, or stored offsite with family/friends. Preferably most since no media is foolproof.
Here are some of my own cherished family photos. First, my great great grandparents who immigrated from the German states of Brandenburg and Wuerttemberg, then met and married in Michigan in the 1870s.
Then there’s “The Smith Brothers” – so called until, after MUCH family research and making connections with newly found cousins, we determined it’s my great great great grandfather Friedrich Trettin (middle) and his “younger” brothers Carl and Hermann in the 1890s.
I would indeed be devastated if these or any of our family photos were lost in a Cape Cod storm. It is good to hear that the Joplin photo rescue may be morphing into a national initiative to help others impacted by emergencies. You can find out more about Operation Photo Rescue, and view recovered photos, on their web, Facebook, and Flickr pages.