What They Saved: Texans Reflect on Treasures Plucked From Harvey

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HOUSTON — The floodwaters here ruined floors, walls, carpets, furniture, appliances and so much more. And yet the damage caused by Harvey was not total. The towers of debris cluttering the curbs of Houston are a deceptive measure of the storm’s devastation. Some things – small things, personal things – survived.

Here are some of those objects and their owners, both survivors of one of the most expensive natural disasters in American history. Some items were carried to safety, while others, perched high above the waterline, were saved by chance. Only one of the damaged items was taken from a pile of debris. The rest were set apart from the heaps of trash, stored in a car or laid out neatly to dry outdoors. The broken coffee cup was the only one in a set that was being thrown away. The others, stained and dirty but intact, were saved.

Sonia Saldana

Photo-booth snapshot of her and her husband

In my bedroom I have my dresser. I have like so many pictures, and I just keep everything. When I pulled the drawer, there was just water all in there, because I had about four and a half feet of water in my home. I’m going to go through these and I’m going to kind of salvage them if I can and let them dry.

This is me and my husband, maybe like 25 years ago. It was taken in a photo booth at a movie theater in Houston. I’m probably like 19, 20. It just represents the beginning of us, before we had our family. This is like the beginning and the rest of the pictures are like what comes after that.

When I left my house the water was like up to here. We walked. I didn’t grab anything, just my dogs. Things can happen at any minute. It doesn’t matter your religion, your age, your nationality. When things happen, they happen to everybody.

Shirley Hines

Fitz and Floyd cups

These cups belong to my mother, and my mother passed in 2000. She lived up by Lake Livingston, in a little town called Cold Springs. She just had them sitting on the cabinet in the kitchen, because she would drink coffee out of them. When my mom died, it’s just one of the things I got out of her home. I used to drink coffee out of them occasionally. When I was really feeling down, I’d get one and drink me some coffee.

They were down low, and the water pressure was really high in the house. I think that’s what it was.

I know I’m truly blessed. So many people lost their lives, and I didn’t. So I know I’m blessed.

Michelle and John Walton

Handmade rug from Turkey

Michele: We are Katrina victims. We were in Gulfport, Miss., and had seven and a half feet of water in our home 12 years ago, so we went through this already. I had very expensive things before Katrina, and after that I never bought them again. But the one expensive rug I had, I bought in Turkey. We went on a cruise with our son and my daughter-in-law. The rug is great memories and the rug is hope. There’s one thing that didn’t get stolen from us.

John: Our daughter-in-law came and washed it. Rug Doctor. Have you ever seen that machine? She worked on it for eight hours.

I don’t understand this at all. You really do big lows and then you just come up. My brother, who’s a cancer survivor since he was 58, he’s 70 now. He had stage 4 lymphoma. He said, ‘John, do you have cancer?’ And I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Then you’re going to be fine.’

Tim Wainright and his daughter Haley

Father’s Day card Haley made in first grade

Tim: Everything was stored underneath her bed, all of her keepsake memories, and inside of that bin was the Father’s Day card. The water came up on Sunday and was up just enough and soaked the carpet, and the water crept up into the bin and that card was inside of there.

We’ll get back on track. I look at this piece, and you know, for me, it had meaning before, but it has a lot more now.

Haley: I mean, the good thing is that, when pencil gets wet, it doesn’t erase. Only an eraser can erase pencil.

So what we did in first grade, every single time we did something like this, we just write it in pencil and then overline it. You could do different colors or stick with black, but I just decided to do rainbow. It kind of looks cool. It looks like a giant explosion of rainbow.

Maria Alvarado

Ceramic lamp

I like it because my husband gave me the set of antiques for our anniversary. Our 21st anniversary. He surprised me. He bought it for me. And because those lamps are rare, I really like it. The store’s not there anymore. The set of antiques cost $7,000. The lamp was a part of it.

Now it looks like nothing, but at the time, it was just incredible how the water was. Water was up to the third step inside the house. I brought the lamp upstairs. The other stuff was heavier. I was scared that I would break it upstairs because everyone was upstairs. I put it on the sofa and then I put something else behind it, and it did slide off.

I think everything is important, but this is what my husband gave me.

LaVern Cox

Wooden urns holding the ashes of her three dogs

We’ve been here about 30 years. This is the second time that we’ve been flooded. The last time was Allison, in 2001. This was worse, because we didn’t lose everything then.

I had three dogs. Buddy, Clyde and Daisy. I had them cremated and I have them in my curio cabinet. They’re up on the top shelf. The water had got up to the first shelf. They didn’t get hurt.

Daisy passed in ’13, and Clyde in January of ’14. Buddy, he passed away on Oct. 12, 2016. He was only 7, but he got sick just like that. And I was taking him to the vet every day. He was a sweetheart.

They were like our children, like that little devil out there now. That’s Daisy. She’s an Australian shepherd. We got her from BARC. They had named her Sally, and I said that didn’t sound right. So I said let’s just go with Daisy.