A man looking for personal belongings where his house used to be. (Benjamin Kyrstein/For The Washington Post)

But as the country heals and rebuilds, it is now able to turn its focus to the smaller casualties, such as family photographs and photo albums that were lost and muddied in the waves.

It’s not an easy process — washing, peeling, brushing, drying, stripping away mold, and more steps go into getting a photo back to the way it once was without destroying it.

Some photos are beyond help, and these are bundled together with the other photos with which they were found, or returned to the place they were discovered.

HiLoBrow writes that the salvage effort has been as successful as it can possible be. “If the physical traces are strong enough, if the photos belong to someone still living, if the survivors stop by, if, by paging through the collections, they locate their lost markers, then a memory can be returned to its rightful owner.”

It’s a lot of “ifs,”but for the simple “thank yous” the volunteers receive when they do find photos owners, they think it’s worth it.

Watch the Guardian’s video below:

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, the Washington Post is doing a similar effort by asking readers to help us make a virtual memory wall. Read more about it here.