OUTSIDE TAMPA, FL -- A local house continued to defy logic as walls remained standing despite the unrelenting attacks of the backhoe bucket on Sunday, March 3, at the site of the sinkhole tragedy.
The work got under way around 8 a.m., with family, friends and neighbors gathered across the street from the home at 240 Faithway Drive in Seffner, where horror struck three days earlier when a sinkhole described as "unprecedented" opened up, swallowing Jeffrey Bush, 36, a family friend who was asleep in the back guest bedroom.
The home is owned by Leland Buddy Wicker, who traveled nonstop from North Carolina to see for himself the destruction wrought by the sinkhole that destoryed the home that he had bought with his now-deceased wife, Mary Leona, in 1974.
The house remains in the family, and throughout the decades kids, grandkids and great-grandkids have gathered there for birthday celebrations, holiday meals and sit-down dinners throughout the week.
Wanda Carter, who will soon turn 50, moved to the home with her parents when she was 11-years-old. As the demolition began, emotion overtook her.
"I had my eyes closed," she said. "I couldn't watch it, it was too much."
But she kept things in perspective.
"It's four walls," she said, about the structure that delineates the family's oasis in the Seffner community. "We have what was inside those four walls, we have each other."
Intact are the memories, many of which are symbolized by the key family heirlooms and mementos demolition workers were able to retrieve for Carter and her exteneded Wicker family.
"God works in mysterious ways and he knew we needed this," Carter said.
Her daughter, Sally Stephens, was at the site as well, noting what many family members believe, that her grandmother, Mary Leona Wicker, who died in 2005, had been keeping an eye out for all of them.
"We believe that she's holding this house [up] so that we can get the things we want," Stephens said. "She's helping us in some way to get her treasures out."
The first order of business was to retrieve the flag that hung at the entrance to the home.
Workers retrieved the flag, folded it respectfully, then presented the flag to the family, a ritual of respect family members deeply appreciated, Carter said.
Throughout the demolition family members sporadically clapped and cheered as a particular item of interest was recovered.
One such item was the Wicker family Bible, which Carter said she would continue to hold tight to her chest. "I haven't let it go since I got it," she said.
The cover was missing, and the first pages showed signs of damage from the bucket that had both clawed and retrieved it, but intact within its pages were such things as certificates of baptism and graduation pictures.
"It also has proof that I made principal's honor roll," Carter said.
She said her mother, Mary Leona Wicker, died May 1, 2005, in the home from congestive heart failure, after a years-long battle with cancer.
"Close family friends had made a cross for her, in memory of her, and we thought it all was lost," Carter said. "It was wrapped up in the curtains [that were retrieved in the demolition] so now we have the cross made for my mother."
Her father retired from the U.S. Navy, she added, and retrieved as well were his military recognitions. "I knew we could replace them," Carter said, "but it's not the same as [having] the originals."
At the site Sunday, Carter said her mother's rose bushes were in bloom.
"It was very overwhelming," she said, but the family is ready to move on.
"We're at peace with it," Carter said. "We're ready to go."