Editor's note: Doug promises to e-mail the photo as soon as he can.
After two months of covering Katrina's arrival and horrible aftermath, I've discovered that it's the little things that unexpectedly touch me the most. This week, while videotaping a story in the hard hit area of Long Beach, Miss., I stumbled across one of those small keepsakes that left a lasting impression.
We had stopped at the Friendship Oak, a 500-year-old tree that survived the storm, when we made the discovery. It's a slightly faded photograph of a young woman in a graduation gown, smiling from ear to ear, surrounded by what appears to be her parents beaming with pride. Judging from the clothing, it looks as though the picture was probably taken in the early 1970s... and judging from her enthusiastic smile it's clear she was excited about what the future held for her. I found it nestled in a bush, just a few hundred feet from the Gulf of Mexico.
Nearby, the million dollar mansions that once lined this stretch of U.S. 90 are now gone. They were torn off their foundations and washed away by a 20-foot storm surge, yet somehow this photograph survived.
Just who this young smiling graduate is, and what became of her and her family is a mystery. I'd like to think she ventured off into the world, made her dreams come true and her parents proud. Who knows? Maybe she grew up to own one of the beautiful houses that lined this famous beachfront before Katrina hit. The only thing I'm sure of is that hurricane Katrina unexpectedly swept away this precious family photo forever. It's the type of irreplaceable loss that thousands of Gulf Coast residents are coping with, and it's a loss you can't calculate.