MONTECITO, Calif. - A tender moment amid hard choices and new chapters. In this case, removing what was left of a family's damaged home in Montecito. You could say that a brother and his sister ended things on a high note -- and the wrecking crew took notice.
It was Demo Day for the Speer family in early May. There was nothing left of their family home on Olive Mill Rd. except for remnants of one majestic survivor, the family's grand piano, choked in mud.
"I was a little bit surprised," said their contractor, Ann Burgard. "I thought it was gonna be lifted out of there."
"We came inside and our daughter just started playing the piano," Chris Speer told NewsChannel 3.
"And our son started recording it," said Maureen Speer.
"It was sort of a last goodbye," Chris said. "We just figured we'd have it torn down with the house."
"I was like, 'Wait, no! We're not tearing this down,'" Burgard said. "I talked to the guys that work for me and said, 'Let's try to save this thing. I can't do it now.' So, we just pulled the house down around it."
And that's just what they did, leaving the piano rising from the mud and rubble like a Phoenix.
"I haven't stopped being surprised about the amount of debris and possessions that we're pulling out of the soil every single day," said Burgard. "So, when there's like a little bit of a save in anything, there's some attachment to it for me."
For Maureen and Chris, it was a sign of hope and a new start.
"Tearing down the house was a good moment, we know that we were moving forward, that we'll have an opportunity to rebuild," Chris said.
The family is now in a rental home, haggling with insurance, and looking at a last muddy beacon from their past.
"It's possible to maybe make some artwork out of it," Maureen said.
"Take the harp out, the section with the strings," Chris said. "We have a friend with a big property near Westmont and he said, 'Bring the piano and we'll plant petunias in it.'"
"We had friends who want us to bronze it and put it on the corner as a memorial," Maureen said.
Other treasures pulled from the rubble at their home included a packed suitcase with Chris' wedding ring.
"I don't think we're stopping anytime soon," Burgard said, moments before hopping back up on her bulldozer. "The good news is, there will be another chapter and there will be a stopping point. It's not today but it's headed in that way and this community is showing up for that."