SPARTA, Ky. — More than two months after tornadoes destroyed homes and lives in western Kentucky, an envelope addressed to a couple of storm victims stirs emotion in among strangers who live more than 170 miles away.
"My family and I said a prayer that night as we looked through this and found out what it was," Rob Hollman said. "It was emotional just knowing a family had gone through it."
Early last December, 58 people died in the storm. That includes Billy Miller, 73, and Judith Miller, 72.
Four weeks later, what seemed to be litter was found two miles from the nearest home or road in Sparta, Ky.
"I noticed a plastic bag with an envelope," Hollman said. "It was right in the middle of a trail. It was an Evansville, Indiana postal stamp and it said the address was Bremen, Kentucky. Bremen didn't resonate with me. I picked it up thinking well, 'I've heard about tornados taking debris a long way' and I put it in my pocket."
Hollman said he wasn't able to give the contents of the bag a closer look — or understand its origins — until later that evening.
"I got home that night and l looked on the internet for Bremen, Kentucky, and what came up instantly was 12 people killed December 12th," he said. "I looked at all the damage and I wondered where this address was. I looked on there and the name is Billy D. Miller. I went to the internet and I typed in people that died in the tornado and sure enough Billy Dale Miller and his wife Judith Miller were killed age 73 and 72."
He said the discovery blew his mind and left him grappling with a wave of emotions he didn't expect to feel from what looked like litter on the ground.
"Immediately, really, (I) just started tearing up and crying because it's one thing to find debris from a tornado but these people actually lost their lives," he said. "I went on to read a little bit more. They had been married for 56 years and they found them in a cinder block home still snuggled next to each other. It's just made me think more about life, about the precious times we've got here."
It also pushed him to Facebook and a group where people post lost items in order to connect with storm survivors or next of kin.
"I wish it was a photo or something like that," Hollman said.
Instead, it's an old tax bill envelope that may not be the most sacred item found. However, knowing some survivors are still looking for new homes, still trying to rebuild lives and still grieve losses, Hollman said the discovery was still a reminder that gives him a new mission close to his heart.
"Just for the family to know that some of (the Miller's) belongings are out there," he said. "I certainly want them to know there's a lot of people praying for them."