Kristie Fudge did not even realize her only child’s baby photo album was missing after flooding from Hurricane Harvey ruined her family’s Baytown, Texas, home last month.
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“We haven’t even started our list of everything that we lost because we’re still trying to clean out the house,” Fudge, a high school teacher, told ABC News. “If you stand at the front door, you can see all the way to the back closet in the back of the house.”
Fudge, 40, was surprised to get a phone call on Tuesday from a childhood friend who saw a photo album that might belong to her posted on a local Baytown Facebook group. The friend recognized Fudge’s childhood home in a photo and gave Fudge the phone number that was posted on Facebook with the photos.
A few hours later, Fudge had in her hands a photo album that showed the first week of life of her 12-year-old daughter, Hannah.
The album was found around five blocks from Fudge’s house in a park by Baytown city employee Jesse Martinez.
“Like everyone said, we could have thrown it out but no," Martinez told local ABC station KTRK. "It's somebody's baby pictures. They were older pictures. It's nothing digital. It's nothing you can print out on a camera now."
Martinez brought the album back to his office where he and colleagues found Fudge’s name on the back of one photo. They used a magnifying glass to identify her name on the medical bracelet she wore while she was in the hospital for Hannah’s birth.
“Hannah is the only grandkid in the family,” Fudge said. “If [Jesse] didn’t find that baby book, we wouldn’t have pictures of her being born and my parents getting to hold their only grandbaby in their arms.”
She continued, “It goes to show the testament of Baytown, of the whole Houston area, and how we really do stick together as friends helping friends, just people doing the right thing.”
The Texas Division of Emergency Management estimates that more than 160,000 homes were damaged or destroyed during Harvey. The storm hit Texas as a Category 4 hurricane and dumped record-breaking levels of rain on Houston and the surrounding areas.
Fudge described the return of Hannah's baby album as a "true treasure" while she struggles to rebuild her family's home.
The photo album had water damage but all the photos of Hannah survived intact.
"When she found out it was her baby album, she got teary-eyed," Fudge said of her daughter. "She was totally grateful."
She added, "We have just pure gratefulness and overwhelming joy of knowing complete strangers would go out of their way to help a fellow person and not kick them when they’re down or throw away precious memories."