I live in Bay St. Louis, MS, pretty close to ground zero for Hurricane Katrina. Originally from New Orleans, my wife Sally and I moved to the Coast in 1991 to live close to her parents. They are retired and had a beautiful home on the beach in Waveland, just west of Bay St. Louis. \r\n\r\nOur community suffered incredible damage from the storm, but Sally and I were very lucky that our home was not destroyed. We lost about one-third of the metal roof on our 100 year old house. The rain drenched our master bedroom and kitchen, but we did not flood and were happy to still have our possessions. My wife\'s parents were not so lucky. Along with everyone else within a half mile of the beach, their home and property was nearly wiped clean by the winds and storm surge. When evacuating, they did not anticipate the intensity of the approaching hurricane. Unfortunately, they left most of their valuables and heirlooms behind.\r\n\r\nOne of my father-in-law\'s prized possessions was a 14k gold fire chief\'s badge that belonged to his grandfather. His grandfather, John Michael Evans, was Fire Chief of New Orleans sometime around the 1920s. The gold badge was presented to him by officers and members of the New Orleans Fire Department on March 23, 1921. My father-in-law, also John Evans, was heartsick over losing the badge. All he talked about was finding it. \r\n\r\nMr. John (I also call him Paw) used to have a metal detector. I used it a couple of times on the beach and actually found a nice silver ring my first time out. I was hooked that first day in treasure hunting but unable to devote a lot of time to the hobby due to my work schedule. I decided after the storm that I would invest in a metal detector to search the beaches for lost items scattered along the coastline. But my first priority was to help Mr. John search the grounds around his home for his lost valuables and especially the Chief\'s badge.\r\n\r\nI bought a Garrett Treasure Ace 300. I thought I might invest in a more advanced detector later if I was to get really serious, but for now the Ace 300 would probably work fine. Mr. John and I got together on Tuesday, April 4, since I had the day off work. Two Sundays before we had drained the murky water in the pool. We had looked but didn\'t find the badge or any valuables, but we did sadly solve a big mystery by finding my mother-in-law Bobbie\'s baby grand piano in the deep end. \r\n\r\nThe four bedroom \"big house\" once faced the beach at the front of the property. Behind the main house there had been a two bedroom cottage, an RV shed with a one bedroom apartment, a pool house, and the garden shed. On holiday weekends the whole family could get together and sleep over if necessary. My wife Sally is the youngest of seven children, and there are nine grandchildren. \r\n\r\nThe only thing left of the main house was the concrete block piers and beams and some 2\"x12\" decking timbers. The property is only about 90 feet wide but stretches back about 1800 feet deep. When I had thought about finding the badge, it seemed like a daunting task. Depending on how the house had broken up and where the furniture had been tossed during the storm, their stuff could be anywhere within hundreds of yards in any direction. Much of their furniture had literally disappeared. He had not even found small traces of big heavy dressers where the valuables had been kept. \r\n\r\nSo I knew that finding the gold badge would be like finding the needle in a haystack. I turned my detector on and aimed it at a section of sand where the main house had stood. Mr. John thought a lot of items might be right under spots where the furniture used to sit in the master bedroom. I had my doubts. But when I dug the shovel in to scoop my first beep, I turned over three pieces of my mother-in-law\'s fine silver, buried in packed sand about three inches deep. What a find right off the bat! We were both encouraged and kept working a six-by-eight foot area. Along with more silverware, including a cake server, we found Mr. John\'s silver I.D. bracelet that his mother had given him as a teenager. All the pieces were a little crusty and needed a good cleaning, but our first fifteen minutes were really paying off.\r\n\r\nThe gnats were horrible, and the sun pretty hot and bright, but a nice cool Gulf breeze was blowing off the water and made the digging fun. We put on some bug spray, and Mr. John suggested we move to another place he thought would be good to search. I had been hogging the detector, so I offered to dig while he searched. He got a quick beep. I dug up a nail. Then he began waving the coil too quickly, missing a lot of space. I said, \"Paw, go slower, and make sure you get along the edges,\" while pointing to a small area he missed. He swung the detector to the spot where I was pointing and \"beep,\" I could hear the detector go off loudly in his ears through the headphones. I stuck the shovel in the sand and turned it up towards the concrete edge. In shock and amazement I suddenly saw a large piece of shimmering gold. \r\n\r\nFor a split second I thought we found a big piece of costume jewelry. But the glimmer of that gold was unmistakably real, and as I bent over to pick it up, I think we both managed to say at the same time, \"I can\'t believe it.\" It was the lost badge. It was beautiful. A little dirty and somehow missing its leather case, but still as shiny as ever, and with the pocket pin still attached on the thin gold chain!\r\n\r\nWe kept repeating \"I can\'t believe it\" and \"This is a miracle\" for the next two hours as we continued working the sand, finding more keepsakes and loose coins. Of course there was so much trash metal that we got a beep within every two inches. In fact, we are rethinking our plan of detecting and may just set up a dig and sift system to find what we can from the mix of sand, glass and metal covering the ground.\r\n\r\nIn closing, Paw called me the hero of the family. Talk about being in the \"Circle of Trust!\" He could not wait to tell his younger brother Ken. Uncle Ken and his wife BeBe also lived in Bay St. Louis and lost their home and possessions too. Uncle Ken is missing a very large silver shield/plaque that had been awarded to their grandfather by the fire department. I hope that someday someone finds that beautiful shield somewhere along the Coast, appreciates the sentimental value of this unique heirloom, and returns it to my wife\'s family. \r\n\r\nFinding the gold badge in the first 20 minutes of searching WAS a miracle, but we hope to find more. At this point, Paw says anything else we find will be icing on the cake.\r\n


“[Untitled],” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, accessed May 27, 2024, https://hurricanearchive.org/items/show/33357.