For Judy Boyle, the treasure that she took with her was a small chandelier she bought on a trip to Austria. For her 4-year-old son Blake, it was a plastic dinosaur and a mastodon.
Like hundreds of other Americans in Panama, they took an hour Thursday to pack up their lives."I tried to take something that meant something to me," said Boyle, who said her family is from "a lot of places in Texas - Dallas, San Antonio."
It was about 4 p.m. when Boyle and her husband, Emil Kirberg, both civilian employees of the Army, heard the news of their evacuation on Armed Forces Radio.
"Nobody's been getting much work done the last few days," said Boyle, an auditor. "Everybody's been listening to the news."
Most of the 10,600 U.S. military dependents in Panama already live on base, and the Kirberg family had been offered on-base housing last year.
"But it was tiny, and by that time we had a beautiful apartment in Panama City on the 10th floor overlooking the bay," she said.
Despite months of demonstrations against Noriega's government, they decided to stay.
"We've never had any trouble at all. The Panamanians have been wonderful to us," said Kirberg, who's been posted here since 1987.
"I'd like to see the Panamanians have the same freedom we do," said his wife.
They were part of an emergency plan for off-base families in which on-base sponsors agree to take them in on what they hope will be a temporary basis.
The Kirbergs knew their sponsor well: he was Kirberg's boss, Leo LeBlanc.
The Kirbergs rushed to their home in Panama City about eight miles away. They gave themselves a half-hour to pack, but it took an hour.
They left behind clothes, furniture, curtains. Blake had to leave his Ghostbusters game. They asked a family of American missionary friends to take the dog. Their landlord assured them he would take care of things "if anything happened."
They stuffed their car with suitcases, pillows and blankets. Blake was barely visible behind his mother's chandelier.
"I'm hoping if we have to leave they'll at least let me mail it home," she said as it was unloaded at the LeBlanc home.
"I like Panama," the boy declared.
LeBlanc said he had three spare bedrooms because his daughters are in college. He was planning to put a family in each.
His wife had run out to rent some videotapes to entertain their guests, who also included three children.
"It's going to be great to hear the patter of little feet again," LeBlanc said.
"I don't know," said Kirberg, dubiously looking at LeBlanc's neat living room. "Blake's got enough toys with him to trash this joint."
Both Blake and Kirberg said they thought it was better to be safe than sorry, and they felt safer behind the tall chain-link fence that surrounds Fort Clayton.
But they were upset to leave their home.
"I wish things were better so we could stay," Boyle said. "You never feel comfortable in somebody else's home."