Disaster strikes cross-country family move that started in River Parishes

Published 12:13 am Wednesday, July 12, 2017

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Natalie Louque Ham is no stranger to moving.

The St. Charles Catholic graduate has moved from her native Gramercy to New Orleans to attend Loyola University, then with her husband Brian and three children to Dallas, Denver and Zachary.

So when Brian got his dream job with a software company in South Dakota a few months ago, it was no big deal for Natalie.

She packed her house up and hired a moving company to take it all north.

Natalie Louque Ham and Brian Ham are joined by their children Jameson,
Emmelia and Vivienne.

That’s when tragedy struck.

On the night of June 7, the truck carrying all of the Hams’ belongings rolled over just outside of Memphis. Everything they owned was lost.

“It’s just been a nightmare,” Natalie said this week from her temporary rental home in Sioux Falls. “That’s the only way I can describe it.”

News coverage of the wreck showed boxes and furniture strewn across the highway, along with their clothing and personal belongings.

Most heartbreaking were the photos of the toys belonging to the children, Emmelia, 8, Jameson, 5, and Vivienne, 3.

“The youngest two don’t really understand,” Natalie said. “You have to tell them over and over again, but they really don’t realize what’s going on. Emmelia has a better grasp. Just the other day she was asking me, ‘Is this gone? What about this? What about that?’ It just about broke my heart to tell her that just about everything she asked about was just gone. If it was just one thing it would be hard.”

Even more disheartening is that the loss is not covered by insurance. Homeowners insurance does not apply.

The moving company contract offered the family 10 cents per pound — that’s roughly $720 for 7,200 pounds of belongings.

Despite being a veteran mover, Natalie said she and her husband had no idea their move was not insured.

“There is a thing called moving insurance,” Natalie said. “In all our moves, no one has ever offered it to us. I just found out about it now. If nothing else, I hope other people learn from this.”

The company did send a salvage truck to the wreck site and picked up as much as possible off the roadside. Very little could be saved, however, and much was never found.

“My washer and dryer — we don’t even know where they are,” Natalie said. “I can only imagine people stopped and took whatever they wanted.”

What little clothing was returned was ruined.

“There are tire marks, holes, road grime,” she said. “I don’t know what happened.”

Natalie said only four pieces of furniture were saved, including her grandmother’s cedar chest.

“I can only think she had some kind of hand in that,” Natalie said.

The family also had to purchase identity theft insurance because much of their important paperwork was lost.

Over the past several weeks, the Ham family has tried valiantly to provide the moving company with an itemized list of everything they owned to try and negotiate a settlement.

They also have scoured local garage sales and flea markets to find replacement furniture before they close on their new house later this month.

Meanwhile, friends and family members have jumped to the family’s aid with donations.

A Gofund has been set up for monetary donations. The family also has set up online wish lists at Amazon and Target for the general household and for each of the children to replace their favorite toys.

Most of the family pictures, scrapbooks and each child’s special memory boxes were not on the moving van. Two of the Ham children were adopted and their special keepsakes are safe.

Their lives are changed, however.

“We have a very different perspective on material things now,” Natalie said. “In the blink of an eye, everything was gone. But we weren’t on the truck. The driver walked away. It gives you a different idea of what’s really important and what we need and don’t need.”

To help the Hams: 

Gofund: gofundme.com/help-the-hams

Target wish list: bit.ly/2tlhYTm

Jameson’s Amazon list: a.co/2KjDMzX

Vivienne’s Amazon list: a.co/8hvuHwj