Memories and muck

Updated 8:50 AM ET, Sat September 30, 2017

(CNN)It's not just a house. It's the place a toddler took his first wobbly steps and where a teenager, under the porch light, had her first kiss. It's where birthday candles were blown out and countless hours spent planning for the future.

And now, it's a sodden heap of decay. A balance-sheet liability. And it's one of tens of thousands of properties just like it devastated by disastrous floods, wind and rain swept in by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
First among the many steps of rebuilding is gutting this house -- hauling out every potentially poisonous artifact of a once-stable life. It's a disgusting, sometimes dangerous job that experts say is best done by professionals. But that's expensive, and when entire communities lie in ruins, there are never enough contractors to do the work.
So, relatives and neighbors and faith-group volunteers join forces to get it done sooner than later, before the damage worsens. And with each whack comes the realization that some lives won't ever be the same.