In their years of working together, it was always Pat who worried about the pictures.
For nearly 20 years, Barb Cramer and Pat Slattery have worked together producing television stories. At WSMV-TV, Cramer was a reporter and worked with Slattery on special projects. Today Cramer and Slattery are colleagues working in video production at Vanderbilt, in much the same capacities.
But on May 5, it was Cramer who took charge of the Slattery family’s photos, saving them from disaster.
When Cramer heard the Slattery family home in Bellevue was flooded on May 2, she decided to do what she could to help. Pat, his wife Carmel, and their 15-year-old son, Danny, lost almost all of their belongings.
 “I was overwhelmed that day and just figured there was no hope for anything,” said Carmel, Pat’s wife of 29 years.
Water rose four feet in the single-story home. The Slatterys say the next week was a blur of strangers and friends coming in and out of the home they had owned for 22 years, dragging out river-soaked couches, beds and belongings. Cabinets of laminated wood were in pieces; the books they contained swelled and burst out of their shelves.
Then there were the photos.
The family’s three photo albums were a total wreck, and hundreds of other loose photos had been waiting, semi-organized, to be put into albums “one of these days,” Carmel says. They were kept in a plastic container.
“But the container was on the floor,” she said with a wry laugh. “It filled right up.”
In the back-breaking work of hauling what used to be their homey surroundings into the street on Beech Bend Drive, the Slatterys say they had become blind to what was of value, or what might be saved.
“At that moment it’s all just stuff,” Pat said. “You just can’t think about what you should try to save, there’s just too much.”
Cramer had come to help clear out
the house before moisture and mold destroyed the infrastructure, but then she spotted a small photo of newborn Danny in his mother’s arms at the hospital.
“I saw that picture, and everything was headed for the heap and I thought ‘No, we have to save those.’”
She stashed a bag full of photos in her van, headed home, and got on the Internet to research what could be done.
“They were all stuck together, most of them face-to-face. It was disheartening,” she said. But the instructions she found were hopefully simple. Lay out photos that are not stuck together, freeze any batches that can’t be worked on right away, soak the stuck-together ones in cool, clear water.
“It was amazing. Once they really got soaked, they peeled apart nicely. Then they could be laid out to dry,” Cramer said. “I thought I’d be able to save a few, maybe a handful, but I was able to save most of them.”
A couple of weeks after the water subsided, Cramer visited the Slattery family at the home of co-worker and friend Emily Pearce, where the family is temporarily living.
Cramer presented the couple with two full bins of photos, all dry and safe: photos of the young Slattery couple; the birth of their only son; Pat’s trip to Athens, Greece; the family cat that outweighed baby Danny on the day he came home from the hospital.
That evening, the Slatterys reminisced with their friend, spinning tales illustrated by the images that had been lost, then resurrected. Perhaps the most meaningful story Barb and Pat had ever worked on together, the story of the Slattery family life.

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