CONCORD, Ala. — It was bad enough that a tornado obliterated Derrick Keef's house. Worse still was the heartbreaking scavenger hunt for his most priceless possessions strewn across the devastated neighborhood.
His guns were in the ruins of a neighbor's home. A Christmas heirloom shared space in a ditch with broken glass and jagged nails. And his 7-year-old son's bike — one of the few toys he could salvage — was pinned under a car a block away.
"I've been going from lot to lot finding stuff," he said as he rifled through debris in Concord, Ala., in search of a family photo album. "It's like CSI."
As crews combed the remains of houses and neighborhoods pulverized by the nation's deadliest tornado outbreak in nearly four decades, survivors were left trying to figure out how to put their lives back together.
At least 297 were killed across six states in Wednesday's outbreak.
President Barack Obama planned a trip to Tuscaloosa on Friday to view storm damage and meet Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and shattered families. Late Thursday, Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state to provide federal aid to those who seek it.
"He just needs to do something," Chris Travis said about the president as he smoked a cigarette at dawn today, looking around an intersection of a Tuscaloosa neighborhood reduced to splintered trees and crumpled homes.