Mary grabbed a few family photos, but the water was quicker than they were. Within minutes, it had risen to their waists. They swam for it, but lost photos while managing to get to higher ground.
When they returned 48 hours later, their Newsom Station home was a wreck from the floodwaters. The biggest blows: baby pictures of Mary's son, John Patrick Helmontaller, who had died in an accident at the age of 21, were found badly damaged. A 1952 wedding album that belonged to Mary's long-deceased parents was ripped and smeared. A Tennessean engagement announcement carefully preserved for more than 50 years had turned to pulp.
"It was heartbreak upon heartbreak," said Mary's sister, Joan King, who is taking charge of what could be a complicated fight to save or restore some heirlooms.RelatedNashville Flood 2010Weekend After the FloodComplete coverage of Nashville flooding Flood of 2010 resource guidePDF: Salvaging a flood-damaged home
Many families have returned home in the past week to find valued heirlooms, photographs and artwork swollen with water or covered in mud or silt. They're grappling with whether they can afford to hire restoration experts to save some of the items, or they're taking steps on their own to bring possessions back to life.
Restoration experts in the Nashville area say calls for their assistance have started to trickle in, but they're not overwhelmed with repair requests yet.
With flood victims focused at first on securing homes, tearing out wet carpeting or replacing ruined drywall, dealing with damaged art or soiled furnishings may have taken a backseat to more pressing needs.
Taking immediate action, however, can mean the difference between preserving or losing beloved photos, paper documents and antiques, said DiAnna Tindell, who owns Tindell's Restoration Schools and Studio.
"I know people are tired and at their wit's end and not going to be thinking clearly," Tindell said. "But even if people don't have time or money right now, they can save their valuables."(2 of 2)