Woman finds photos lost in tornado at library's lost and found

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JEFFERSON CITY - Brenda Engelbrecht and her family moved items into a storage unit the week before an EF3 tornado tore through the city. They didn't realize some of their most precious memories would be right in the storm's path.

"Once we saw where our storage unit was, it was just like your heart drops, you know," Engelbrecht said. "We looked and looked and we found some of them, but for the most part they're scattered somewhere."

Engelbrecht saw a Facebook post on Missouri River Regional Library's page about how it was serving as a lost and found site for things blown away during the storm.

On Wednesday, she decided to go take a look herself and a library employee had good news.

"She opened up the envelope and all but two of them were mine," she said. "People have a wonderful, wonderful heart and I thank them for returning our memories."

The library's marketing director, Natalie Newville, said the library is the perfect spot for the community's lost and found.

"We're very used to cataloging and keeping information and so we wanted to provide a space for people to bring in photos, or letters or mementos from people," she said.

The library doesn't plan to stop its efforts anytime soon. Workers want to see more items returned, like Engelbrecht's photos.

"We were excited to reunite them with her," Newville said. "It was really nice to see that come full circle."

This isn't the first time Engelbrecht lost photos. She said her family's house burned down in 1998, just two days before Christmas. Some of the photos she found at the library also survived the fire. Their edges are charred.

"Having lost pictures before I thought I was being more careful this time. And when you lose them again it's like, you know, part of you goes with them," she said.

Since the fire, she said, she's loaded photos onto discs as another way to save them. Those CDs were also in the storage unit destroyed by the tornado. Engelbrecht hasn't found any of them yet, but hasn't given up. 

"I can only hope that I find more of them," she said. "I'm so thankful people are so compassionate. They could have easily stepped over it."

Anyone who wants to turn in items found since the tornado should go to the Missouri River Regional Library on Adams Street. It's open seven days a week. More information is available on the library's Facebook page.