After five months, Melissa and her sons headed back to New Orleans to see what was left of their home. Every square inch of the house was covered in mold. On the wall, a framed picture of Earl as a baby hung caked with dirt.
"You can replace furniture, you can replace a house, but this is something that you can only have a memory of," Melissa said of the picture. "I can't replace that. ... It's something that I will have to keep at heart because there is nothing else I can do."
As the family dug through the debris, they only found a few salvageable items from their life before Katrina. "I have a '#1 Mom' pendant from Earl that I received on Mother's Day one year, so I was glad to find it," Melissa said. "So I can get a chain and wear it proudly because this is it—this is all we have from New Orleans."