Memory box rescued from the rubble

Swept away by the Andover tornado, memories find their way home
Updated: May. 1, 2022 at 10:00 PM CDT
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ANDOVER, Kan. (KWCH) - One of the things people in Andover have said hurts so much is the loss of sentimental items like pictures and their children’s toys. Items that can’t really be replaced and are already so missed. Sunday morning, one family learned someone had found some of their most precious items and were working to get them back home to them.

“The first thing the guys that helped us out (of their collapsed home) said is ‘don’t panic but your house is gone’,” Ali Valentine-Brown explained. “We loved this home. We loved it. Our dogs finally had a fenced backyard. Our kids loved it. It was great. It puts everything into perspective because now it’s all gone.”

It took only moments for the Brown family to realize just how much they’d lost. They had lived in their home, now in rubble, less than two weeks before Friday’s tornado. No chance to build new memories and forced to say goodbye to old memories they’d collected over a lifetime.

The family was rescued through a basement window. They couldn’t get out on the first floor because it had collapsed around them. The Browns say they didn’t know what they’d find when they came out but did find they were all ok, and in the coming days someone else found something that was important to Ali and the whole family. Strangers posted photos of what they’d found on social media in hopes of returning the items to their rightful owners. It worked. So, the Brown family spent much of Sunday doing the same thing hoping to help others in the same way.

“I was at my son’s basketball game this morning, and there’s no service where he played. I got out and there were like 27 Facebook tags of somebody who had found my daughter’s baby stuff,” Valentine-Brown said.

Toys, pictures, birthday cards. It was a box of memories the Brown thought were gone forever.

“Pictures of her (Ali’s daughter) when she was little and birthday cards and things from school that she had wrote about me and stuff that is literally like, so special because those are things that you want to have forever,” she said.

So the Browns started working, to pay the kindness forward.

“We just kind of decided we’re gonna go do the same thing for other people. So, we found somebody’s wedding dress, pictures of other people that I posted to the Facebook page seeing if it was there’s for them to contact us. So I hope somebody else finds their stuff too,” Valentine-Brown said.

Valentine-Brown says she hopes it’s give others the chance to make new memories while still holding on to some of the old.

“It’s a big victory,” she said. “Finding all of her things, which I haven’t found nearly all of them but finding some of her things. Any of them was so huge for me.”

Like many people in Andover, the Browns have had a gofundme page set up for them. It can be found by clicking here.

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