Family Grateful After Grad Students Restore Photos Damaged In Deadly House Fire


It was a devastating fire the day after Christmas that killed four people, including three children, in Fayette County.  But now, out of that tragedy, the family is getting a precious gift.

"Me personally, I have a hard time with the photos," said Ricky Harris.  A look back at times Ricky and Tracy Harris will never relive, with people they'll never see again, their three boys, Kenyon, Braylon and Broderick and his mother, Terry.

"It's been hard from day one and it hasn't gotten any easier," said Harris.  "I just feel like sometimes I'm not going to be able to make it through."

The boys were staying over at grandma's house Christmas night when fire swept through, killing all of them.  The family's photos were pulled from the ashes, a burnt soggy mess.  They were spotted by one of Harris' lifelong friends, a doctoral student in art conservation at the University of Delaware.

"We received these photographs in a FedEx box covered in soot and grime," Harris described.

They wound up in the hands of Debra Hess Norris, the chair of photograph conservation at the university.  "We cleaned them and did everything that we could."

She made their restoration a two week intensive project for her graduate class.

"We probably spent in the end 600 or so hours on the project," said Norris. "We feel so connected to the Harris family."

"(I) can't understand how they were able to take the time for us, I mean, there is really no words to express that," thanked Harris.

It was important for Norris to hand deliver the pictures.  While it's tough for Harris to look at them, he is truly grateful.

"It never enters our minds that our children might not be here,"  said Harris.

A painful void Harris can't imagine will ever be filled.

"After all the lights are gone and all the people are gone, shut the door at night and its tough,"  said Harris.

But the family is lifted by an outpouring of little gestures of support, gifts like the pictures that help keep their memories alive.