BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — As the sun set on a chilly afternoon in Louisville, Melissa Lockman walked through the freshly built frame of her new home for the first time.
“It feels so hopeful, you know? I mean, it has been such a year," she said while imagining what her family's home will one day look like. “At some point, I wasn't sure if I wanted to be back here. And this feels pretty magical.”
The Lockmans' home was one of more than a thousand burned in the Marshall Fire nearly a year ago. The family recently began rebuilding a new home on the same lot.
Lockman, who is a trauma therapist, has been able to help her children over the course of the last year.
“I'm so grateful my kiddos are doing OK," Lockman said while looking through the beams of their new build. “My daughter every night, still, every night at that time, she asks me if there's going to be a fire. You know, we just say there's not going to be a fire. And we're OK.”
Lockman said her family lost everything in the fire, and she assumed boxes of photographs were also destroyed.
“Photographs are a big part of what feels really painful to lose," Lockman said. “They’re a story of a moment in time. We won't have that moment again, but you know, the visual story of that time, it's really lovely to get to revisit it again and again.”
In February, Lockman and one of her close friends, Jenevieve Russell, decided to rummage through the rubble one last time. The two were not looking for the pictures specifically, and were stunned when they found the boxes filled with photos.
The pictures were badly damaged, and the boxes containing them were soaked. Russell said she was shocked the boxes had not disintegrated before the two women found them.
“I knew they were invaluable," Russell said. “So I said, let's just put them in the back of my car, and I'll take care of them.”
Russell knew Lockman was dealing with countless issues at the time, and called Mike's Camera in Boulder to see if any of the pictures could be salvaged.
“I immediately told her, just bring what you have in, don't worry about anything else. We'll figure it out," said Curtis Busack, the store manager of Mike's Camera in Boulder.
Busack said Russell brought two boxes filled with photographs that were on fire at some point, along with the boxes. The location of the boxes may have been what saved some of the pictures.
“This box happened to be next to their hot water heater while everything in the basement was burning. And the hot water heater ruptured. And consequently put out that [fire] and so we were able to salvage quite a bit of images because of the hot water heater putting out the fire," Busack explained.
Busack said he feels as though the pictures were meant to be saved, and as though he got to know the Lockmans through the process of restoring the photographs. He said three employees spent three days straight, from open to close, working on the images. They were able to restore around 1,500 pictures.
“This was a family that I feel deserved it," Busack said. “As I got to know them through their photographs, long before I ever met the family, I could tell they were that type of people that had really given so much to other people.”
Mike's Camera would normally charge $6,000 for the labor and service that was provided. However, they repaired the photographs for a discounted price just below $2,000.
Now, Lockman can look through decades of photographs as her home is rebuilt, and remember her past while looking toward the future.
“It's really a story about people who just show up in hard times," Lockman said. “There were a lot of times this year when I just came back to like, oh, wow, humans are good. And that's a really good thing to come back to.”