BILOXI, Miss. — A class picture, a baby's first steps, a wedding — they are memories of a lifetime. These photos, now carefully preserved in an Erie, Pa., basement, had been swept away from their owners by Katrina.
Watching the coverage in Erie, Sue Weber wanted to do something to help.
"A TV reporter walked into the middle of the street and picked up a picture from pictures that were scattered all over by the wind," she says. "It occurred to me that people had lost those precious memories.'
So Sue, along with a group of volunteers, created the Picture Project — a Web site designed to return the photographs to the families who had lost them. With the help of sponsors, thousands of pictures were turned in. Each photo was cleaned and uploaded to the Web site.
Soon, those photos were recognized in places like Biloxi, Miss.
"I was crying," recalls Carol Rickman when she saw one of her missing family photos. "I had goose bumps. I was calling out to everybody in the house, "Hey, I'm finding our pictures online!"
Dave and Carol Rickman, who lost everything to the storm, evacuated with the bare necessities, including lifesaving essentials for their two sons, Mark and James. Both boys suffered from Batten Disease, a rare and fatal neurological illness.
"We had a wheelchair, a stroller, a breathing machine, the boys' medicines and three changes of clothes," says Dave.
Each born healthy, Katrina snatched away any evidence of the boys' early years. That is, until the Picture Project recovered 13 of their photographs.
"The very first picture I brought up was of Mark and James sitting in a little red wagon in our front yard," says Carol. "And I just started squealing."
Memories of a time before disease. Memories that Sue Weber got the rare chance to hand deliver to the Rickmans.
"James is 2 and Mark was about 4 and this is the summer right before we got Mark's diagnosis," says Dave as he looks at a photo. "This has got to be the most precious picture of all the group."
Even more precious now. Five months after the storm, Mark lost his battle with Batten Disease.
A picture lost is now a picture found, thanks to a group of volunteers making a difference, one photograph at a time.
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