NEW ORLEANS, Sept. 15 - Cherie Froeba returned Thursday to Fable Drive, in the subdivision of Story, determined to salvage something from the home in devastated St. Bernard Parish where she had lived with her husband, David, for 15 years.
Ms. Froeba, 41, was set on one particular item. "I have my grandmother's Bible in a Ziploc bag in a drawer," she said while still a few blocks away. "She wrote in it like a diary."
Hoping that the damage might not be so bad, she brought along a garden trowel to move aside any muck. But after the couple reached the neighborhood in a pickup truck and Mr. Froeba realized how high the water had climbed, he warned her, "There's not going to be anything."
Just two weeks before Hurricane Katrina hit, Mr. Froeba, 42, had a heart attack while mowing the lawn. He spent six days in the hospital. When the family evacuated before the storm, they did not overdo the packing. But Michael David Froeba, 9, was not about to leave behind his Game Boy and PlayStation, and Whitney, 14, took her high heels and favorite dresses.
The youngsters were doing all right, Ms. Froeba said. They had enrolled in school in Baton Rouge, where the family rented a condominium near her sister. Ms. Froeba still had her job, as the office manager in the New Orleans branch of Jeffries International, and Mr. Froeba still had his job as a sales associate with the Sysco food service. It was just hard, she said, to start over when so much of life had seemed so settled.
Outside the family's one-story brick house, thousands of dried minnows thatched the cracked mud in the gutters. The flood had forced open the side door. On her first glimpse inside, Ms. Froeba gasped, "Oh my God," and began to cry.
"It's lost," Mr. Froeba said. "That's it. Done."
Water had reached the attic, soaking the insulation, which then brought down the ceiling. Sodden insulation was draped in the chandelier and across upended furniture in a ruin of sludge and weeds. Ms. Froeba sobbed something inaudible and went inside. "What, baby?" her husband said gently. "Cherie, don't go in there." He added, "There's no sense in going to the back."
"I'm going," she said. "I want to get to my bedroom." That was where she had put the Bible, in the underwear drawer in her dresser. Mr. Froeba followed her.
The water had heaved the dresser onto its back and swollen its drawers. Mrs. Froeba began to pound it with a hammer. Then Mr. Froeba tried. The wood did not yield. "I give up," she sobbed. Mr. Froeba yanked the drawer, pulling its front away in his hands.
Ms. Froeba reached inside and found the Bible. Inside the bag, it was dry. She burst into tears. Then she reached for her husband, pulled him to her and hugged him tight.
Now, doesn't that make you feel great? I started reading this and thought, as maybe you did, oh, god, another tragedy. So when I got to the end and I'd been hoping it would be okay and they couldn't open the drawer, then did, it made me feel that maybe things everywhere will be okay in the end. I hope you'll forward it if it made you feel good like it did me. Everyone needs a little hope in their life, and this writer and these people really captured it for me.
Bless you all because I love you and PLAY THE LOTTERY, my friends!