Vintage photos salvaged after being damaged in Hurricane Harvey

HOUSTON – One 93-year-old Meyerland woman worried she had lost most of her precious memories after Hurricane Harvey -- boxes and boxes of pictures and documents with irreplaceable memories dating back to her birth and her husband's participation in World War II. To her surprise, her family went to incredible lengths to bring those memories back to life.

"In the almost 52 years I've been in, water has never passed my curb, ever," said Jeanne Samuels, a 93-year-old woman who called Meyerland home.

After Hurricane Harvey hit in September, she found herself as a loss for words.

"It's part of my life, just like everything that was out on the curb, the mountain of stuff that was out on the curb," said Samuels. "It's heart-wrenching now to go down the streets, to see people's life out on the curb."

Samuels lost irreplaceable memories -- letters from her late husband while he was serving overseas in World War II, belongings, picture frames and much more. But, in this once-in-a-lifetime flood, a suitcase surfaced. Her granddaughter found it while helping to gut out the home. Inside was a lifetime of memories.

"In that suitcase, which was totally inundated, was pictures that dated back to my birth, which I've never seen before. I have pictures of my mother holding me in her arms and me growing up," said Samuels.

Her grandson, Michael Duke, collected the photos. Her son-in-law collected 1,300 clothespins to hang them. Michael wrapped wire around the backyard and the family started washing and hanging the old photos to dry.

"We're all busy hanging out pictures and Michael was able to help us save a couple rolls of negatives," said Samuels. "My grandson, Michael, is an accomplished photographer and writer."

Michael developed the old film and uncovered new memories. The photos, many of which Samuels had never seen, took her on an unforgettable trip down memory lane. She was in awe.

"It's a remarkable effort that went into do(ing) this and the elation of seeing things that I haven't seen in a long time, a few things that I may not have ever seen. Memories are a funny thing, especially when you get up in age," said Samuels.

She is going to celebrate her 94th birthday in January and has a lot to be thankful for, she said. Houston Jewish Federation volunteers helped her gut out her home.

"From the very beginning, I had people in my home I'd never seen in my life. I never knew their names," said Samuels. "There were seven people from Israel that came in. There were people from all over the country."

Samuels said Hurricane Harvey brought together her family and the community in ways that have changed her perspective on life.

"I'm grateful for what I've gleaned, had and what I have had," said Samuels.

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