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Tornado survivors seek the comfort of familiar things

It's difficult to avoid becoming hardened to scenes of tragedy. We see so much of it, because it’s relatively easy to transmit pictures around the world. I’ve experienced some of this today, as I’ve looked through all the tornado images and edited our slideshow.

The pictures that have affected me this afternoon are the ones of people returning to their shattered homes and picking through the debris. Some people are practical. They’re recovering clothing, food and even toilet paper. But others are searching for precious, familiar objects: a piece of jewelry, a valuable antique, a one-of-a-kind family photo. I hope the survivors find what they need to help them through the coming days.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

Residents recover possessions from a destroyed apartment building in Joplin, Mo. on May 25, 2011. The death toll from a monster tornado that ravaged Joplin rose to 125 on Wednesday after an overnight search turned up more bodies. The tornado that wrecked up to a third of the city of 50,000 on Sunday was upgraded to an EF-5, or the highest rating possible on the Enhanced Fujita scale of tornado power and intensity.

Mark Humphrey / AP

Sandra Pommert reacts to finding a photograph of her parents' farm among the rubble of her sister's tornado-demolished house on May 25, 2011, in Joplin, Mo. Her sister, Judy Flenner, is recovering after having a mild heart attack following Sunday's storm.

Chris Landsberger / AP

Charles Sleeper stands in what was his bedroom on May 25, 2011 after it was destroyed by Tuesday's tornado west of El Reno, Okla.

Tannen Maury / EPA

Ryan Millikan, center lifts a container to Nick Wongratananajcha, left, as they help Lee Morris gather his possessions three days after a killer tornado ravaged neighborhoods in Joplin, Mo.

Charlie Riedel / AP

Ashley Hailey salvages items from her devastated home in Joplin, Mo. on Wednesday.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

Volunteers carry a crib from the wreckage of a church in Joplin, Mo. on Wednesday.

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Theresa Mayfield ,right, helps her cousin Elizabeth Vandenberg salvage a couch from the living room of her home after it was destroyed when a tornado passed through the town on May 25, 2011 in Denning, Ark. The storm passed through the town damaging many of the homes as the region continues to deal with deadly tornados.

Tannen Maury / EPA

Tim Bartow looks in the window of his bathroom as he gathers possessions three days after a killer tornado ravaged neighborhoods in Joplin, Mo. Officials have begun restricting access to the areas affected and are enforcing a nighttime curfew.

Chris Landsberger / AP

Miranda Lewis smiles as she recovers the height growth marker for her six-year-old son Copper on Wednesday. It was among the rubble left behind after the home was destroyed by Tuesday's tornado west of El Reno, Okla.

Mark Humphrey / AP

Travis Blizzard, left, salvages items from his car with the help of friends Matt Jordan, center, and Dylan Shyler on May 25, 2011 in Joplin, Mo.

Eric Thayer / Reuters

Carrie Clark holds her cat in her destroyed apartment in Joplin, Mo on May 25, 2011. Clark said she last saw him moments before Sunday's deadly tornado and had found him only minutes before this picture was taken.

From Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem "The Two Rivers"
Wayward and wistful; with one hand we cling to the familiar things we call our own,
And with the other, resolute of will, grope in the dark for what the day will bring.