Gone with the wind: Tornado blows Cookeville photo to Scott County

Holly Viers • May 4, 2020 at 12:00 PM

On the way back from a hunting trip on April 5, Lee White made an unusual discovery.

Lee, an Ohio resident who had been hunting with a group of young sportsmen on his cousin David White’s Scott County farm, noticed a photo lying on the ground during his walk back to David’s house.

The group first thought that someone else had been in the field and simply dropped the photo. But later that afternoon, the true story started to take shape.

“We brought it back to the house, and my son … looked the number up on the back and saw that it was developed in Cookeville,” David said. “Then bells started going off, and we put two and two together.”

The group realized that the photo, developed at a Cookeville Walgreens on Feb. 10, 2011, had blown to Scott County during the devastating Cookeville tornado in early March. Hoping to find the couple pictured in the photo, David contacted his friend Todd Broughton, who had had his own experience with the tornado.

“I’m a county commissioner in Sullivan County, and I was actually in Nashville when that tornado hit and drove back through Cookeville the next day, and the devastation was kind of crazy,” Broughton said. “I told Dave, ‘Maybe we can find out who it is. Do you want me to put it on social media?’ and he said, ‘Sure.’ ”

Lee and the other turkey hunters were back in Ohio by the time the puzzle pieces were coming together, so David and Broughton worked to connect with the couple themselves. Broughton shared the photo on his Facebook page the day after it was found, and within minutes, the couple in the photo had been identified.

David and Broughton learned that the picture was one of the couple’s engagement photos, taken more than nine years ago. The photo had been inside the woman’s mother’s house in Cookeville, which was hit by the tornado. While the house was completely destroyed, no people were harmed.

“It’s just kind of neat that that’s their engagement picture, and now they’ve got three kids,” Broughton said. “It’s neat how things change.”

The photo made its way back to Cookeville last week, though by mail this time. But even though the photo is now back with the couple, David described the experience as one he won’t forget.

“The two things that fascinated me the most by it was the fact that it traveled roughly some 200 miles,” David said, “and I just couldn’t imagine the power that brought that to the house, and it arrived in fairly decent condition. … The second thing I took away from it was to find that picture from Cookeville, and then to be able to put it on Facebook … and within 40 minutes, we already knew who the people were. Both of those things are what I took away. I’m like, ‘Wow, not only the power of the storm, but the power of social media.’ ”

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