Interview with Rhonda Lind, June 4, 2006.
Interview U-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)

Interview Participants


[00:00:00 - 02:05:29] (View excerpt detail page)
Read about this segment.
My name is Rhonda Lind. It's June 4, 2006.
So I wanted to start kind of back at the beginning, I guess, sort of talking about how you came to be in this area. Did you grow up here or marry someone here?
Okay. Well, I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in the Ninth Ward. I guess you heard about the Ninth Ward [Laughter] by now, but on the other side of the bridge. We moved to [unclear] in Saint Bernard Parish in 1973. I started high school down here, so pretty much grew up down here. My childhood was in New Orleans. You'll find most people from [unclear] are actually transplanted from New Orleans. It's kind of made up of all New Orleans people now. Been living down here since 1973 and always worked down here. We had a plumbing, heating, and air conditioning business. We always had a beauty salon. Built houses, lived here, all our family's here now. Well, not no more, but were, and that's with just a couple of us that are back here. Most everybody buying houses other places since the hurricane, but everything was great till the hurricane came and just changed everybody's lives, you know? Pretty much it's nothing's the same, so—.
How was your life different?
How's it different? [Laughter] I don't know if you have that much time. Everything's different. Every aspect of our lives are different. We kind of have a makeshift life. We're just trying to find our way to make a new life, but I mean, our just daily routine of stopping and get gas in the morning and see people in stores, and the stores are not there, the people are not there. I mean nothing. We were living in a three-story house in [unclear] , and it's totally destroyed. Actually, though, we were fortunate that being close to the river on Saint Bernard Highway was the furthest point in which the water came. It was like the last of where—you know, the direction of the storm. But most people had water over their rooftops into second stories and what have you. We had probably about four and a half feet of water, but it's just enough where you have to gut the whole house to the ceilings. Of course, no matter what kind of house you have, the bottom floor is your main living area. The upstairs, we had bedrooms, but everyday living is in your downstairs, so it'd probably take a whole lot of money and a whole lot of time to even try to get that back. We're going to attempt it, but it's so unfathomable that we just say we're going to try it. That's all you can really say.
I remember when we originally evacuated to [unclear] , Louisiana, which was right on the border by Texas, and we were staying in hotels. Well, we couldn't hear anything. They would never say anything about Saint Bernard Parish, so we didn't even know what we were facing. We didn't even know what anything looked like. Finally, we kind of started—. Actually, they rounded up a bunch of people from Saint Bernard Parish were there. A lot of people just headed west, and just kind of meeting at McDonald's or whatever. Everybody's living in hotels, so kind of walking your dogs outside and started seeing people, and we heard of the devastation. We never got to see anything. It was probably at least two weeks before we actually saw a picture on the news. They kept [saying], "New Orleans, New Orleans." Well, of course, I mean New Orleans is a famous city, so the focus was on that. I kind of in a way resented it, because they actually left Saint Bernard Parish to fend for themselves. After the fact, we learned that it was pretty much citizens rescuing other citizens. I mean, guys in yachts from Lake [unclear] on the lakefront took their boats to Saint Bernard and were rescuing people in boats.
The first time we came, we come down the main road that comes from the interstate, [unclear] Road. They must have had two thousand boats, just people trying to get as far as they could get in their boats. When they'd hit a car or whatever, it would just stop. But we were in the hotels out there, and we started figuring we can't just keep staying in a hotel. It's going to get expensive. So a whole bunch of us was there. It was probably fifteen of us—my husband, my son, myself, my mother, my sister, her chil—. It was a bunch of us, and we started calling around trying to make plans. We figured, okay, we've got to make a move. We've got to try to do something, so we calling relatives or whatever to see where we could go.
Well, it came to the point where we had to split up because there was too many of us to go to one house. I remember sitting in that parking lot [unclear] start crying. But I didn't want to leave them. Like we had spent all our time together, and it kind of seemed like if we left them at the time, we might never see them again, you know? But we tried to keep in touch. Our cell phones weren't working. We all of us had to get new cell phones. We were trying to keep in touch as best we could, because for a few days there, maybe a week, we just kind of—. We're a close family. Just like where I was telling you our houses at, we had three houses on a big piece of land, and it's kind of like a family compound.
Now it's just so different. Now the ones that wanted to sell sell, and they got like these strangers moving in. You don't even feel like you want to go back because it's just so different, but we just tried to do whatever we could do. So we moved in with some relatives of ours that were actually my in-laws from my first marriage, and my sister and my mother, they rented a little place on a lake up in [unclear] , Louisiana. We were in Prairieville, which is right outside of [unclear] , and we stayed a couple of weeks. You feel like after a certain amount of time, you've got to move on again, so we wound up moving again.
It wasn't no problem really. It was just an emotional thing, but we didn't really have—. We all left home with three sets of clothes, everybody that I know, because we figured, I mean, we leave a couple of days, we're going to come back, and everything's going to be fine. We wound up having to find a Wal-Mart, and we had to just go buy underwear and t-shirts. It was like ninety-five degrees, and your brain feels like it's just spinning out your head. I mean, things that most people take for granted—just like, you know, every morning when you wake up, you go in your drawer and you get new clothes. Well, we were washing clothes in a hotel room in the sink and hanging them on the side of the truck and stuff.
We went to the—trying to find a bank, trying to get whatever money we could have. We had to apply for food stamps, which we've never done in our life, but it was like a disaster assistance program that they were telling everybody, "Well, do this." But living in a hotel, you can't get groceries to cook, so that's when we had to wound up trying to find alternative things. But all of these months, it's just, you know, every week it's learning a new way of living. Still you can see, being here, there's no grocery stores. I mean, there's like a little corner food store if you run out of bread or something like that. If you got to go to the grocery, you got to go miles, go either across the lake or whatever, and most people lost their vehicles. I mean, we did. We had one vehicle that we had with us. Well, we had to wound up going to get—. Most everybody we know lost at least one vehicle. There's not a person I know that didn't lose their house, everybody's photographs.
It's like I have one child, and I've taken pictures since the day he was born. I had photo albums full of him. When we went to go look, I found the photo albums, but when you turn the pages, the pictures are blank. I wish I would have saved some I could show you. There's just a rim of the picture had a little color on it, and my son's father—. Our wedding pictures—. His father died when he was six years old. I got the album, but it's blank. It's empty. My mother was lucky enough—she had a little mother's album, you know, when you get married and the mother gets a photo album. So she had one for each one of us kids. It's not big ones like you would have, but that's probably the most precious commodity of the whole thing.
It's like I was telling you. You could build another house. It's not that it's going to be your home, but it'll be a house. It'll be a shelter, but I don't know. It's almost indescribable. You just don't have anything left. It's just like as blank as those photographs that we went back and looked is what your life feels like. To me, it felt like a death in my family, just coming back and seeing your whole community, everything that you know, everything that you do daily—. Go to the cleaners, there's no cleaners. No groceries. We just started getting a couple of little banks. It's a daily struggle every day when you have to do anything.
Just like I was cutting [unclear] inside, but I was cutting hair just trying to make some money on a picnic table outside in ninety-something degree weather. You wouldn't even have to wet the person hair. He's just sweating to death. And I had just renovated my beauty shop after the thirty years we had the same beauty shop. Peach color walls and a little flowery border paper. We had just fixed it up, and I had it open probably four months when the hurricane came. While I was cutting hair outside on the picnic table, we had studs and cement. I don't know if you ever saw what a gutted house—. I mean, it's just nothing. You could look through one end of the building and see clean through the other end.
Like anything that fell on the floor, you couldn't even hardly salvage. It depended. If it was like, say, dishes, something that's cleanable—. Other than that, because they had so much mud that came in with the water—. And a lot of people got oil. We didn't get oil from the oil spill from the oil refinery, but we literally had to shovel mud out of the house, out of the doorway to make like a pathway, just to get in. It makes you sick that when you're looking, you're trying to just salvage, you would be amazed at the mode that your brain automatically goes into, trying to just save anything.
When you're just picking up this stuff and all this—. We got boots and gloves and suits and masks, and we're going through this stuff and it smells so bad and everything's just dripping with this muck. And every thing that you pick up has a memory attached to it, no matter what it is. It's a memory, and every thing that you pick up and you think you're going to salvage, it's like mentally you go through it all again. Every little thing you touch, it just breaks your heart, because you know—. It's almost like people say—. We heard when we evacuated people were saying, "Well, those people just need to get over it and get on with it." Well, it's easier said than done. You're not going to just—. You actually got to make a new life. It's just day by day, you're just trying to go through it all over again. Things as simple as, okay, we've been staying here, we've been collecting trash, we've got to put the garbage out. Well, we don't have a garbage can [Laughter] . Whatever, paper towels, you don't have a holder. We had to go buy toothbrushes and hairbrushes, anything that you can imagine.
It's things that people just don't think of. I think that they don't really know until they come. They need to come here and see it. When you see it and you drive through some of these neighborhoods and you see like where my brother lived, you go down his street, you can't even drive down his street now. There's a house in the middle of the street, with the slab still attached to it. There's an American flag sticking in the front yard, and the weird thing about that—. I mean, it's weird, okay. There's a house in the middle of the street, but on both sides of the street, there's no houses missing. So this house actually came from probably three or four blocks from where the house landed.
The whole house, it just picked up, floated, because that's how deep the water was. It passed over houses; it passed over cars, trucks. They even have little figurines in the windows. Curtains are still there, everything. I could take you and show you the house. You'd freak out. I mean, some houses kind of moved a little bit. This house in particular came from three or four blocks away and literally floated over everything. I guess when the water started subsiding, that's where it ended up. It kind of looks like—if you didn't know better, you would think it was like the Wizard of Oz movie, how the house just falls out of the sky. That's exactly what it looks like. You go down the street, you've got to turn around and go back out to the main street, go around the back, because you can't even pass.
And that's just my brother's street. There's subdivisions on top of subdivisions all the way through New Orleans. I went through Mississippi, and everything was the same way. Most of those people got a lot of wind damage. We had somewhat wind damage, but when our levees broke, that was it. The newspaper said it; a couple of weeks ago they had, "Within six hours, our fate was sealed." I'm forty-eight years old. Everything I knew my whole life, in a matter of six hours it's totally gone. You feel angry; you feel like you're just so mad you want to do something. I mean, you can't do anything. You can't be mad at anybody. Who are you going to be mad at? Mother Nature? It's hard to talk about, because you can't hardly find the words to even express, you know. And still, sometimes I'll talk about it, and it feels like it was yesterday. You just start crying. Some days you feel like you don't even want to wake up. I mean, you'll see the trash. It's stacked up a story high almost ten months later, and nothing's changed.
We was able to get sheet rock and floors back, but there's people I know that are living in tents, just tents in their yards or FEMA trailers. I saw this one lady one morning. We were driving in [unclear] , and this woman's coming out of the tent. She's got a toothbrush in her mouth, she's trying to brush her hair, and I'm thinking it had rained that night before. Even me, and I'm directly affected by it, but I'm not in a tent. I was like riding in my car and I'm just crying because I said these people probably slept on the ground. They're probably soaking wet, funky, probably even hotter than it is outside right now. When I tell you nobody came and helped us, you could stop anywhere in Saint Bernard Parish and ask, and everybody fended for themselves. There was nobody. Weeks later, a couple of people showed up to help, but this time everybody's hot, aggravated, filthy dirty, I mean people dying.
They had a man that was rescuing people. As soon as he got his mother in a boat, because the people stole boats—. I mean, they had to. They were trying to save their lives. He got a boat; he got his mother in the boat. It was him and his neighbor, and right after they got his mother in the boat, his mother had a massive heart attack, and she died. But the guy, he continued rescuing people, and every house he went up to in the boat, they had people hanging in trees, on light fixtures in their houses. I mean, you name it. I personally know the guy, and he was telling the people who he was rescuing, "I feel like you need to know this before you get in the boat that I got my dead mother with me, and I cannot leave her behind. So if you want to be rescued, you have to get in the boat."
This is a true story. They went to the high school, and he tried to leave his mother there. But you've got to understand at the time, they had probably twelve feet of water where the high school's at, and they wouldn't let him leave his dead mother there. So he kept leaving the people out that he was rescuing and left his dead mother in the boat with him for days. It was like three or four days he did this. And they broke in a grocery store; they was stealing food just to go bring to the high school so people would have food. This was people who actually stayed, didn't have the means or whatever to evacuate.
Like I told you, we don't never evacuate. We usually stay. Well, we just so happened at the very last minute when we woke up that Sunday morning before the storm and this thing is like a monster—. It's like Category Five, and my husband's like, "Oh, we got to go." And that's what we did. We ran around the house, and I got my son [unclear] because my mom and my sister and them, they had already evacuated. Actually, that's the only way we got a hotel room, because they had left the day before. My son's like, "Mom, you've got to get out of there!" So we just threw a couple of things—like I said, probably two, three sets of clothes in our truck, packed up our dogs, and we headed out.
But a lot of people stayed. They probably had twelve hundred people in Saint Bernard Parish that drowned, died, from some hurricane-related thing. I had a ninety-year-old aunt that got rescued out of her attic of her house, and by the time they decided to leave, it was too late. They were trapped; they couldn't leave. So we're on the phone with them and we're in a hotel, and we're telling my cousin, "Put an ax in the attic." For Hurricane Betsy, so many people died in the attics because nobody knew the water was going to get like that, and nobody had axes in the attic. Well, that's one thing most people, everybody that stayed, put an ax in their attic and actually needed it. So many people were on their rooftops for days, and they were baking. It was so hot, but no food, no water. You figure some of them was like ten days they don't have nothing at all.
A friend of mine had their little grandbabies, like two-month-old babies. Finally when the helicopters started coming, they're on the roof and they're holding the babies up to the helicopter and they're making motions to their mouth, like bring food and drink, and the helicopters just left. They never brought them anything. It can get you so mad, because to me, they send all this money—. Like Iraq and Afghanistan, they go bomb these places, they have full-out war, they send all this money, they're rebuilding, and here we are. This is American people that work every day for a living, and they're leaving them to die in a situation that's totally beyond any of our control. It ain't because we did anything wrong. It's just a hurricane came; that's what happened. You would think that they'd have people right outside maybe the state lines ready to come in, but it was weeks before anybody came to help any of these people.
When we finally got to come back, nothing was green. Everything looked red, black. You could see from the pictures I showed you. The weirdest thing was by our house, we had all kind of birds and squirrels and you name it. When we came back, you didn't even hear any type of anything. You didn't hear no birds; you didn't see no squirrels. This is my husband Jeff, by the way [Laughter] . This is Elizabeth. To hear no wildlife, no kind of nature, after we've just been devastated by Mother Nature, and it was kind of ironic that you don't even hear a bird. You don't even think about that, but when it's total silence, you start thinking something's not right. And you start realizing we're probably never going to even have grass anymore, much less birds and squirrels. They had dogs living in our house when we got back. Skin and bones. Their ribs were sticking out, and we're going in the house and they start barking at us. I guess they were starving, so we going in the car and we're getting stuff and trying to give them. I guess they didn't know where to go. They were trying to save their selves, and for whatever reason, the animals were just left behind.
It felt like you was in a movie. It kind of felt like it wasn't even real. It's like when we drove back from Baton Rouge, it's a long ride because the interstates were jammed. People were just trying to get back to see their properties or whatever, and we had a bunch of us in our truck and we were talking. You know, a truck full of people, everybody's talking. When we went back, not one person spoke a word to each other the whole way back. I believe it's true that your brain can't even absorb everything. It's like what you saw, you can't even believe that you just saw it. It's like everything in your life, and that was just the first time. Every time we would come back to gut the houses, then you'd start finding stuff, what you thought was to be good stuff. Like I said, you'd be amazed how your brain just kind of shifts modes to where now the littlest thing means so much. We were bringing back stuff full of mud and probably mold and everything. We sitting outside with buckets of bleach and soap and water with toothbrushes, just trying to scrub little angel figurines and anything that we could find. Probably all we could find, out of a whole lifetime of stuff, probably would fit in one little grocery sack, like the little plastic sacks that you get at the grocery. Probably everything that you could find out of your whole entire house, you could put in one of them little sacks, and you've got to feel fortunate that you was able even to find anything.
Some people I knew went back to find just a slab of their house and actually scoured the neighborhood looking for whatever, anything that looked familiar to them that was out of their house, and never was able to find anything. Yeah? Those houses were like, even kind of like in the back of where I told you my brother [lived], which they were closer to the lake, but actually not even probably five, ten minutes from where we sitting right now. But it's so widespread that you got to really see it. I wish you had more time. I could take you around and show you things that would blow your mind. You'd think you'd never see nothing like that in your whole life. Like I didn't never think I'd live to see anything like this, but the only thing I could compare it to that kind of would be equal, maybe, and I was never in a war, but when you see, say, pictures of like Bosnia or like the tsumani, when you see things that it just don't even look like—. Some people, you could be standing in front of their house. I was standing in front of one of my friend's houses, by their slab, and did not recognize a thing of any—. I didn't even know that I was in front of my friend's house, because the house wasn't there, but neither was anything else that was in that whole nearby area was not there. It looked like an atomic bomb went off. It just looked like totally destroyed. If you'd never known what it looked like before, when you came back, you—.
It's hard to recognize stuff when it happens like that. We never ever would have thought that we would [have] had the kind of water that we had. I mean, people had mortgages on their houses and like with the banks, and banks and stuff, mortgage companies even told these people they didn't need flood insurance, because it had never ever in the history ever flooded before. Probably more than half the people that lived down here literally didn't have no flood insurance because they never ever needed it. But if you go buy a house and the mortgage company and the bank is telling you you don't need it, chances are you're not going to get it. Some people will, but this is not a rich community. It's all working class people, and I know it probably sounds weird to a lot of people, but they didn't even have flood insurance? But if you never ever needed it before—I mean there's places probably still that have never flooded before—people might not have known that you could get flood insurance.
I bet now down in [unclear] most people's got maxed-out insurance if they could afford it, but most everybody done lost their jobs. When your community goes away, our jobs go with it. Like us, we filed for emergency unemployment, food stamps. I remember the first time we used our food stamps, they give us like a debit card or a credit card thing, I didn't even know how to work the thing. I didn't know what to do with it, but it was kind of funny. You feel like you're delirious, so you're kind of like laughing while you're doing it. And then you're crying because it's so tore up that you know you really need it, but when you're used to working, you've kind of got a pride that you don't want to live off the government. But you feel like all these years you've been working and paying taxes, and the first time the government's actually going to try to help you? That's kind of an oxymoron in itself, because ten months later, look at the way everything still looks. If we wouldn't have took it upon ourselves to gut our houses and re-sheetrock and everything, we'd probably still be living with relatives. It gets old, and it's not that we don't appreciate it. I mean, it's hurricane season again [Laughter] . We might wound up needing them again.
It's such a grand scale. Everything that you could think of in your own life, or anybody for that matter, anything—just every day when you come home from work, you put your keys in the same place or you know where your shoes are at. Think about first of all you don't have a home to go to. Second of all, there's no table to put your keys on. You're lucky if you've got a floor or a wall, and everything that you own could fit in one little bitty bag. Your priorities just change. All of a sudden, material things don't seem important, but then at the same time, you're digging through mud and sludge and everything else to try to find anything that you can keep. That's what I think it is, just because they got a memory attached to every single thing. But the pictures, that's the worst thing because most things you can replace. Pictures is one thing that you absolutely can't replace. I got some of my baby's pictures back. I say "my baby"—he's twenty-six, but from giving my sister-in-law and them pictures when all these years while he was growing up, when we left, moved out of their house to come back, they were digging through pictures and they gave us a Ziploc bag with all the pictures back. So that's the only way I have any of my baby's pictures anymore.
It's almost like as if you've got to live through it to know. It's so hard to try to describe. It looks like a third world country; sometimes it feels like a third world country just being here. But at the same time, it's probably the most at home I've felt since the day the hurricane hit, because it's just familiar. It's your home. That's where you live; that's where you've lived most of your life, but it's different. I mean, hardly any of the people here—. We probably had eighty, ninety thousand people living in Saint Bernard Parish pre-Katrina, they call it now. Pre-Katrina, post-Katrina, that's the way people measure things by now. When we first came back, there was no traffic. We felt like we was the only ones here. Then a few weeks later, they got a paper that we had ten thousand residents back, which seemed like that was a whole lot of people. But when you think about you had eighty or ninety thousand, that's really nothing, and everybody knows—. It's a small community.
We got this highway and [unclear] 's the other highway. It's our only two main highways, and then the one highway that goes to the interstate. I mean, it's a small, tight-knit community. Everybody knows everybody. Like if something happens to one person, oh, by the end of the day, everybody in the parish knows about it. That's how it is, and when you don't see any of these people—. And everybody's so scattered out around, you don't know, first of all, where anybody—because everybody was evacuating all over the place. Really, you don't know if you're ever going to see them again, I mean unless they come back. Like I said, most people had to get new cell phones. You don't know where they stand; they don't know that you back. This is like everybody you went to school with, everything, anything you could think of, and you just don't know. When you run across somebody—.
I remember the first time we was in Gonzales and we went to a Wal-Mart, and the first girl I saw was at this meat market that I used to go to almost every day. She used to just make the chicken salad. I knew her by name; she knew me. Well, I turned my basket in Wal-Mart, and she's turning on the same row, and both of us make this face like "it's you, oh, it's you!" And both of us busted out crying and we're hugging each other. It wasn't even that we was real great friends or close friends. It was just—. She says, "You the first person I saw," and I said, "You're the first person I saw!" Everybody's like hugging and crying and "Where you at? Where you staying?" Exchange phone numbers, but who would ever think that you would get that emotional about just somebody that you seen in a store. It's just because it was the first familiar thing that I saw after, and that was probably five weeks after the storm. I freaked out when I saw that girl, and I'll never forget it because she was the first one I saw.
But like on the news, everything's New Orleans, New Orleans. Well, New Orleans is like five minutes from here. Ten minutes tops, you're in New Orleans, but they probably get the most help because it's a famous city. Nobody ever hears of [unclear] or Saint Bernard Parish. It's just a little small place, but absolutely almost everybody that lives here was born in New Orleans and over the years, kind of tired of—. This was kind of considered like the country, get-out-of-the-city country kind of thing. Well, now it's not much [Laughter] , but hopefully maybe ten years or—. It probably would be at least ten years, I would think, before anything remotely kind of gets back to the way it was before the hurricane. It's definitely different. They always said one day the big one's going to come. They always talk about how New Orleans is a bowl, you know. Everybody talked about it. I'm talking about over years and years, maybe fifty or a hundred years, people said it. But when it's not immediately happening to you, it just goes to the back of your head, and today's today. And then, bam! You get hit with this major hurricane that you never ever would have—. I mean, the only thing I can compare it, like the tsunami or something, because nobody's ever seen anything like that.
We sure did find out that it was like a bowl. Like down in [unclear] , and that's a little fishing community we got down there, first word we heard, we was in a hotel in [unclear] . We heard they had a thirty-five foot storm surge and took it out. Took the whole fishing community out. After we came back, we drove down. That's where I told you my friend, they found him down—. I mean to tell you, it was like fishing camps, guys that trawled for shrimp, crab fishermen, oyster fisherman. All seafood everybody loves and enjoys, they're the people that catch it, and there was absolutely nothing there. There was pilings. There's three areas. There's [unclear] . I think in [unclear] Island, they might have had six structures left. In [unclear] , I think they had four. [unclear] was nothing, and this is like generations of fishermen. That's all they know. That's what they do. Their grandchildren do it. That's just their lineage; like, that's what they do. They're fishermen, and they absolutely have nothing there.
If you think it's bad here, ten minutes further down, and that's kind of like open to the Gulf, there's no sign of life at all. At least here they got a little traffic. Down there, there's absolutely nothing. Nothing. It's unbelievable. I couldn't even believe it. I was just like—. My husband says, "We're standing in front of their house." And I'm looking around and not a thing looks familiar, and I'm thinking—. All of a sudden, I spy this cactus. Now my friend had this huge cactus, probably stood taller than me. It's a little short thing like this, and I saw it, this little cactus, and I'm thinking that was that big gigantic cactus that was right on the side their stairs where you used to go up. I'm thinking I'll be damned. This is where we are, but it just was so totally out of proportion that you just couldn't—. It goes back to like I said. You brain can't even absorb. Your eyes just—it's telling you that it saw, and it's just like the weirdest thing. You never ever in your wildest [dreams] would have thought you would see anything like that. You probably saw a lot of stuff when you was coming form the airport this way, but when you're home and you see it on TV, you have no clue. I mean, nobody in the whole nation would even know.
That's why a lot of times when they talking to Congress or whatever, they tell the people, "Come down here and see." It's the only [way] you really can get it is if you see it. I don't [know] any other way to tell you. I could show you pictures, what it looked like before, what it looked like after, but—. And then again, it's a whole different thing getting from that day to this day. Every day it's okay, are you going to—? I mean, we just got a phone two weeks ago. When we first came back and we got electricity, that was like a big deal. But I felt so bad, I was going around turning our lights off. I was telling my husband, "Turn them off, everybody's going to see." He's like, "I went through all of this to get electricity, you want to turn them off." I said, "But we right on the highway. Anybody that passes, they're going to see we got lights." But you feel bad because nobody else has lights. I'm thinking they're going to come burn our building down if they see our lights on. [Laughter]
You don't know how to feel. Like one minute you're on one side of the fence. Of course, I was glad we had lights. We had air conditioning, but to feel guilty about it because nobody else has it, that's just weird. It's totally not what you—kind of the way you're supposed to think, but—. You started thinking about everybody. Anybody that passes this building, they know we been here like thirty-three years. They're like, "They back," you know. "They got lights." But I was kind of scared. I kept lighting the candles. You just feel bad for everybody else. We felt fortunate because we were lucky we were on this highway. Now had the hurricane came up the [unclear] , it would have been a totally flip side of the coin, because then we closest to the [unclear] . Actually, that's the scenario they always said about. If the hurricane ever goes up the [unclear] —. Nobody ever talked about it's coming from the lake, so in that respect, everybody was caught off guard.
Then for years, I mean, they keep making these levees. You get like a false sense of security. You kind of feel like OK, we got a pretty good levee, but when you got that much water, I don't think nothing's made to withstand that. Like I said down there, a thirty-five foot storm surge—can you even imagine how big that is? I mean, you can't even imagine if something like that's coming at you, and most of the people that stayed, that didn't evacuate, and I talked to some of my friends that stayed, the water went up chest high in like three minutes. I mean, you don't even have time to react. If you didn't have your ax in the attic and your ladder right there, whatever—. Like when I was telling you, my ninety-year-old aunt was going out of the roof, we was on the phone and we were telling them, "Put the ax in the attic." Well, my cousin's outside, and we hear him. We're on the cell phone and we hear him. "Hurry up!" he's screaming. "Hurry up! Get in there! The water's coming!" And they could actually see the wall of water coming, so he jumps in the attic, he's pulling my aunt, my cousin's downstairs, she's pushing my aunt, and we on the phone with them. And you could just hear chaos and just everything, and all of a sudden, you just hear [unclear] .
Oh, well, we were like freaking out. We are crying, we throwing ourself on the [unclear] , we're like, "Oh, Lord, they died, they drowned." We kept listing them as missing persons. Well, probably two and a half weeks later, we thought we saw her on CNN. Now to even imagine CNN in Saint Bernard is like the wildest thing you can ever imagine. But since then, I got a video thing, like a DVD, that shows—. Like the water was so high, when you riding out on the highway, the people are in boats, and they actually ducking under the red lights, like the street lights that are hanging. The water was that high, and they in boats. All of a sudden, we see my ninety-year-old aunt. She looks like Mrs. Claus. She's about four and a half foot tall, white hair, rosy, rosy cheeks, and here she is, in the back on an army truck with this big old thirty-five pound purse probably. We just recognized her with the hair and her hair's all flat down, but that was when we realized they didn't die. They actually got rescued and they finally got her through the roof, but they had to wait on the roof for I don't even know—.
To tell you the truth, I don't know how long they stayed, but when they finally did rescue them, she got hurt going through the roof because she's ninety years old. They had to Med Vac her in a helicopter to San Antonio, Texas, and that's how we found her, in a hospital in San Antonio. Since then, we went to San Antonio to go visit her, because we figured she made it through all this, this is probably going to kill her. So we had to go—. But like that. She'd come here and get her hair done every Thursday morning, you know how little old ladies do. She's steady going downhill, because all she knew was here, too, and then she don't see us no more. It's like she don't see anybody anymore, so every time if we pick up the phone and call her, you want to talk to her because she's so happy to hear from you, but you dread it at the same time because you know she's crying on the phone the whole time. "Oh, darling. Oh, please come to Antonio and see me." I don't even think she gets how everybody's so scattered and everything's such a disaster that it's not like before she'd call us, "Oh, come over," and five minutes we'd be there. Or if she was in the hospital, we'd go and help take care of her, whatever. Now she feels like she's totally lost.
There's nobody that we know that's in San Antonio, Texas, but when all these people were getting evacuated, I mean rescued, they didn't even know where they were going. You don't know where you're going till you get there. All you know is they're getting you out the water [Laughter] , and most everybody wound up in places that probably never in their life thought they would be in this place. But where do you put that many people? In a case like that, in a disaster, what do you do with that many people? So everybody's just so scattered out. If you ever see them again, who knows? All you know is we know who's here today [Laughter] , you know? And that was a big chore just trying to get a couple of us together, like I finally got my mom back, I got my son back, I got one sister back. The rest of the family we didn't get back [Laughter] . Think about that in your own family, if you only got like, say, four people in your whole family back. And then you feel lucky at that, because it kind of feels normal, you know? Kind of like, okay, this is good. Like for this week, this is good.
But I never ever would have thought I would think like that. [unclear] I had my little routine, and that's what I knew. To just have everything upside down is—. I don't know. Sometimes you just feel like it's the same day in the parking lot at the hotel [Laughter] . It's like you don't know if you're ever going to see nobody. It's a terrible feeling that you don't know if you're ever going to see nobody again. But considering most of the people, we were fortunate. This is what you call fortunate [unclear] , in case you didn't know, by today's standards. I don't know. It was a nice place before [Laughter] . Everything was nice. Not like big city living, but nice for us. This is what we know. Everybody's got their own idea of home. This was our idea of it, and [unclear] take a long time to get back to it, I guess. But what do you do? You got to go from here like that, try to get my little shop together and try to work a little bit, and cook every day and just try to make another routine. Just try to make a new way of living, not that anything's ever going to be—. It's never going to be like it was, just like it's going to probably be a smaller version of what it is. That's probably the best that we're going to get, you know? If half of it comes back, it'll be a smaller version of what we had.
What's it going to look like [unclear] ?
Probably like this street that we're on is going to be probably the only main highway. The other highway on [unclear] , most everything on that side they're demolishing. [unclear] , we heard it was going to be like green space, like parks and whatever. Well, we got a couple of birds back [Laughter] . I've been noticing a couple of birds. No squirrels yet, but I don't know. We got there oil refineries which I never was crazy about, the oil refineries, but as it turns out, everybody needs them. So I guess it's going to have to come back somewhat, because everybody needs that [Laughter] . That's what I think. I think it's probably going to look halfway like it used to be and probably half the size it used to be. That's really the best scenario that I could think of, unless—. And hopefully we don't have anymore hurricanes. I mean what, three days ago was the beginning of hurricane season. I don't know if the levees can take it, so we'll have to see. Of course, if a hurricane comes, we all going to be moving again [Laughter] . Hopefully we'll have stuff to come back to, but that's what I think.
No matter where you live, they got something. I met some people the other day. That's one good thing; we been meeting a lot of people from out of town [Laughter] , and whether they from California, Washington, everywhere, there's always something. They've got areas that get tornadoes. They've got areas that get earthquakes. Some places get volcanoes. If we got to have something, I know it sounds twisted, but at least we get a warning. And if you heed the warning, you can leave, and this time I will take more than three sets of clothes, I promise you [Laughter] . And finally, every picture that I can get my hands on I'll take, but that's going to be a trip. The first hurricane that we get, everybody is going to take everything that you could possibly—. You know, like titles to your house, just like papers, nobody thinks about taking stuff like that. We had stuff like that in a safe, which it wasn't waterproof. It was fireproof, and all of these papers were stuck together. If you was able to save some of them, you'd peel them apart, I mean they'd just disintegrate. But I guarantee you, if nothing else, everybody learned a good lesson. They're not going to leave nothing behind, I can promise you. They've going to take everything with them. Probably U-Haul's going to make a fortune, because people will be renting U-Hauls and taking everything [Laughter] .
Now, well, whatever you was able to kind of get back, whether buying or like churches gave us a bunch of clothes and stuff right after the hurricane, so whatever we was kind of able to collect back, it's like this is your stuff. You become possessive; this is all you have. So that's what I think. Whoever leaves, they taking everything, I mean down to whatever, anything. You name it, they taking it because who would have ever thought, you know, that that happened last time. When you lose everything, there's only one way to go but up [Laughter] , so at least we have a start. Yeah, we'll take everything this time for sure [Laughter] —plants , pictures. Like you see everything in here? I'll take everything probably, even though it probably don't look like much, but it's much compared to just studs and cement. It's a lot, you know. If you'd talked to me a year or two from now, you'd have never heard that come out of my mouth, but that's what I'll say. Your priorities just change. It's just a different day now, you know?
Why did you decide to come back?
I never ever had a doubt to come back, because it's home. Like I told you, not that I wasn't grateful for everywhere that we stayed, all the different places we stayed, but I never felt like I belonged anywhere. I just feel like I belong here, and when we were other places and you walk in anywhere, a store or a restaurant, you just feel out of place. Everybody in there, they know you're not from there, especially when you start talking. They're like where you from? But I just knew, like at first they told us we couldn't come back, and that was just—I couldn't even imagine that. So it's like, well, why we can't come back? If we're willing to work, and like I said, we come gutted everything and tried to fix stuff back, why shouldn't you be allowed to come back? I mean, it is America. You should be able to do, you know—. Nobody's paying for us. We paying our own way, so as far as that, there was never a doubt because it's home. Like amongst all of the debris and rubble—. I told my husband, it was one of the first things I said. I said, "Now finally this feels like home," and we looked at each other and we start laughing. I was like I know it sounds twisted because it was just so bad, but it is home. Who don't like home? Everybody wants to go home, so this is our home now. This is just a new home.
What made it home? What makes it feel that way for you?
It's just everything's familiar. There's not a person that would probably pass here that we don't know, probably went to school with or went to parties with or something. Football games, baseball games. We actually used to have all that [Laughter] , but I don't know. It's just home. It's just familiar. It's all we know right now, so it feels safe. It's feels like just this is where we belong. You know, when you're just from somewhere for your whole life—. I mean you like to go places, but you know how like when you're going on vacation and it's always good to go back home, how glad to be home. So everybody's idea of that's going to be different, but I guarantee you everybody likes to be back home. It's just a nice, safe place. That's what you know, you know? But yeah, that's it. This is home. I feel like in the Wizard of Oz—you click your heels, you know, there's no place like home, so that's where we at now. But hopefully more people and more businesses will come back, and it'll start building back. I mean, it's going to take a long time.
It's not going to be overnight, and we can see now it's not going to be a year or two years or probably even five years. It's going to be more like probably ten. But I mean, we live on the river. Everybody needs the river. I think that for this parish, it's going to mostly be cut in half this way. The lake side's not going to be no more, just kind of the river side, and that's just [unclear] that's just the way it's going to have to be. Plenty of people just can't afford to live other places or maybe even come back here. Everybody's got their own reasons for what they got to do, but one by one, I mean all of a sudden, we got twenty thousand people living back here. So something's bringing everybody back. Well, some of them. I shouldn't say everybody, but I don't know. It's just like we thought we wanted to come back. I think most people that we know, that we friends with or kind of knew real good, they're going to come back. It's kind of bred in them. That's just the way this community is. They can't imagine being nowhere else. They just like it here. We like the seafood; we like everything about it.
It's weird. I know like in Tennessee, it's probably a lot prettier. Everything's flat and stuff around here, but I've been to Tennessee and I know what it looks like, and I liked it when I went. But I was still glad to come back home when I finished my trip, you know? [Laughter] That's what I said; everybody's idea's going to be different, but hopefully if they can send all that money overseas and rebuild all of that stuff, I mean why don't they just try to—? They need to fix the levees, you know? We so vulnerable being on the coastline like that. It's ridiculous when you think about it, that you're not safe from anything. I mean, how many billions of dollars do you think that they waste and they can't fix a levee? I don't know. I wish I was in charge of it [Laughter] .
What would you do if you were?
Oh, I'd make sure I'd fix all of it, I swear. Well, first of all, they been arguing about that, the coastline's been eroding like crazy. We had maps from, say, maybe like thirty, forty years ago, maps. They actually had to change the maps because Louisiana is just losing so much coastline. It just looks like one day the end of the boot is not even going to be there. It looks like it's going to fall into the Gulf or something. I don't know, but they keep doing studies about it. It's like you get tired of hearing about it already. I mean, how much it costs for the studies when they ought to just put it to the coastal erosion problem. They waste more money than they know what to do with, and it's not just here. I mean, they need all of it. They need Florida, they need Mississippi, they need Alabama. It's all part of it. It's all part of the big picture. You can't just say, oh, well, you know, we're going to forget about that part of the puzzle. It don't work like that. It shouldn't work like that, I should say. But they sure liked our seafood. They ship it all over the place, but that's where it comes from. It all comes from the Gulf, but it's just that the Gulf's moving closer to the land. It just so happens that's the place that we all picked to live, so that's part of it now.
I'm sure like our grandparents and whatever probably didn't think that the maps were going to change and it wouldn't look like that anymore, but over the years that's what happened. The hurricanes are not going to stop. Every hurricane season it gets more and more severe, it seems like. Like last year, they went through the whole alphabet and started in the Greek alphabet. I don't know whether that ever happened before. That was weird, but when it snowed on Christmas Day, we should have knew something was up [Laughter] . The week before that it was like in the nineties, and then all of a sudden we had a white Christmas. That never happens here, ever, and we remembered even talking about it—"That's so weird; it snowed, we actually have a white Christmas"—and we're thinking something ain't right. Oh, well, yeah, it sure ain't right. It sure changed. It's something with the weather pattern. I don't know. I guess somebody should have knew about that. I just kind of listen to the—. I don't study it, but somebody needs to be studying it.
What else would you do if you were in charge [unclear] ?
Oh, God. They'd have to make the levees—they'd have to at least be like the river levees. To me, the river levees are twice the size. You could go look at them; they're twice the size. On the river side, it's concrete on one side, which that's a whole lot more stable that just compacted sand. See, like these new levees, they put a bunch of sand and that's fine, but the river levees, they've been compacted and compacted. They're like solid. See, to me, if a hurricane comes, the levees are not compacted enough. I wouldn't feel safe enough, probably wouldn't stay. Now they're saying what? If we had a tropical storm, nobody should stay. It's going to be like a mandatory evacuation. So what does that tell you? There's so many things, it's hard to just pick one thing, but the levees are actually foremost on our mind. That's actually what failed, which brought us the water. I mean, the hurricane was just so intense. I don't know that any kind of levee would have been [able] to withstand [it]. You know, this thing was a category five. I don't know what kind of levee you'd have to make for that.
Is now the time to just change it? Do you think those changes will happen?
I think, well, they better. I think it's either now or never. If this don't make them do it, change anything, it's never going to change. I mean, what's more important than that? There's so many people that this hurricane affected, and we just one little parish on this whole Gulf Coast. The devastation is just so far, and we just one little parish. Could you imagine how many that they [unclear] ? I wouldn't even begin to know what to tell you, how many, but that's a lot of people that they're not really caring about or in other words saying you're not worth it. You're not worth enough to fix the problem or whatever. Think about how many families it takes to make a parish, and then how many parishes it takes to make an area or—. It's bigger than you could think about. You know, they come down—like the president, he comes down and he shows up shaking hands, and it's an act. I voted for him, but they need to do something. To me, they bomb all them other countries and then they go back and rebuild it, and [unclear] blowing their own stuff up. What about our people?
This is America. I mean, I don't understand how that works. How can they say we not worth it to fix this, and instead send millions and millions to Afghanistan, Iraq, and whatever else cause they got. To me, it's all the way around the other side of the world. They bombed them for reasons. To me, I wouldn't even go back and rebuild them after I bombed them. We need stuff in our own country. It seems like a no-brainer. To me, I'm not no politician, but you should do for American people first, wouldn't you think? Is it right that America has homeless people, and not by their own—not by anything that they did. Like we were working and all before. It's not because we lazy. It's just because we had a hurricane. That's kind of out of your control, but [unclear] you imagine how many people are homeless because of it, and it seems like they don't care. To me, if they cared, why it took them so many weeks to even come try to get people out the water? What is that? Who does that? That's just crazy. It's hard to believe that that actually happened. It sounds like a third world country. That's the kind of things you hear about on the news. It's not supposed to happen here, but it absolutely is.
Everybody goes about their little life because it's not affecting them, like that day, but anything could happen one day. They could get a hurricane where they never had a hurricane before. Then they're going to know. It's a shame that you've got to find out that way because I wouldn't wish that on nobody, but that's the way it happens. That's the way it happened here. Nobody would have ever thought. You could have bet anybody they'd never see that in our life. Well, here it is [Laughter] . To me, they show up and they say they're going to do this and do that and fix this and fix that, but it just don't get done. You feel like telling them, "Look, why you saying that? Because election coming back up or what?" I don't know what happens to the money that they say they're going to do stuff with, but it don't get done. It's a shame. I mean, well, you know, like where you supposed to go? You just pack your bag and say, "Oh, well, okay, I'll just start a new life over here." [Laughter] It's not that easy, I can guarantee you.
It's just something that we never ever would have thought would happen, so you just got to try to start somewhere. Like already started. This is what we call our start. Hopefully, it'll just get better. I might be old by the time it gets better [Laughter] . I don't know. But everybody that you talk to has probably got their own ideas, and nobody's got solutions. If we had solutions, we probably wouldn't be in the predicament to start with. I just think so many people ought to just come see. Just come see it and see what it did. See what you can't see on TV. When we saw it on TV for the first time, we was "OK, all right, this freaks you out," but when you come, it's nothing like what we thought. You just got to see it. You got to kind of like live it. Like y'all here, y'all is actually seeing it, so you get a way better idea than if you just turn on the news and hear like two minutes. After that, most people turn the TV off and they go about their life. It's like oh, yeah, them Katrina people, oh, yeah. I mean, really, that's the way a lot of people think, but them Katrina people live every day, too, you know?
Like I said, it's just a struggle every day. It's so stressful and aggravating and everything, and at the end of the day, you so just tired out. You just want to go to sleep. I don't even want to wake up today, but then every day you get up and you do it again and just keep doing it. That's all we can do. I mean, what else do you do? In order to build something, you just got to take it one step at a time. Hopefully, we figure we doing it, and the guys on the next street's doing it, and the guys down the street, they all doing it. That's what it's going to take. I don't know any other way to do it. There's no really one answer. It's just a lot of work for a lot of years before it gets—. I'm thinking maybe my grandchildren—I don't even have grandchildren, but maybe one day my grandchildren will benefit from whatever it is we doing. I mean, who thinks you're going to have to start over? When you're halfway through it, you don't think you're going to have to start all over again. Nobody thinks that till it happens to you, and you either let Katrina take you or you just get up and start again, right? That's the way it goes.
You try to go places and have fun a little bit, like we go off just to try a little change of scenery, kind of like freshen your brain up or something, you know? [Laughter] It does get depressing, every day the same thing over and over, but that's the only way it's going to get done. Nobody's going to come here and do it for you. You've got to do it, you know? Just it matters how much you want it, and so far we want it, so we doing what we have to do [Laughter] . [unclear] a lot of people, but a lot of people selling. The hurricane took a lot out of a lot of people. It really did. A lot of people just don't have it in them. I couldn't even tell you how many people I know that died since the hurricane, and they still dying. Like today, one died. It's stressful. It's just so much. It's just so big. It feels like an elephant on you. It's mind-boggling, it surely is.
What do you want your life down the road to be like, to look like?
What do I want it to look like? Hmm. Stress-free [Laughter] . I don't know. I'm kind of over the big house thing. I just want to be happy again. I just want to have people around that I know and I enjoy. I don't even care if it just wounds up being this one-bedroom apartment that we got. I mean really, I'd be perfectly good with that. That would be good with me. It's just that I don't want to have to worry about where's everybody at, if we're ever going to see them again or whatever. If just some of them come back and I mean know that they're all right—. Like my house down there, I wouldn't care. Of course, I would like to be in it again if it could be like it was, which it probably can't be. I guess I would have to say I would like to just be stress-free and happy. I don't care—I don't need to have really much money, just don't have so much of a burden on you. I had a big house; it was nice, but it's just not at the top of my list no more. It changes, you know? It just changes your outlook about everything. I worry more about like my friends and the people in my family, and if we could fix our house and fix our swimming pool, it don't matter so much. It really don't. It was nice, but it's already changed. It's kind of like you feel like you've already kind of grieved the most part or something, because it really feels like a death. It feels like that part of your life is just—that it's not going to be your life no more, and you just got to kind of—. Over months and months, you kind of come to terms with that, but I don't know. It's just not that important. I mean, I know everybody's like a rat race, you know, who can [get] the most stuff fastest and first and all like this, but I wouldn't have wanted to ever learn that way, but it's not really about that. It really is not. Nobody will get that till—they'll have to face a similar whatever, situation, and it just changes you. It's hard to describe. It just definitely changes you. You never forget, but of course if I could erase it and go back, I probably would do that. But you can't do that, but I really would. I'd be happy living right on top my shop [Laughter] . I swear, it wouldn't matter.
I just wish all my family didn't have to be just everywhere like that. I just hate that. I liked things the way I liked them, and it's hard to adjust to a whole new way, a different way. But when it's staring you in the face every day, it just kind of happens on its own. You don't have a choice. It just kind of forces you into that's the way it's got to be now. But you think your whole life's taken away overnight, virtually overnight, and it's just everything that you knew or whatever, you got to find new ways [Laughter] . It's almost like you're a little bitty kid again. It's like start over. At least you get another chance [Laughter] . I don't know. What you going to do? We got to keep going. That's kind of not even a question. It's just like you said, what made you come back? I never did want to not come back. Could you imagine you can't never go back? That don't happen usually. I learned never to say never [Laughter] . I swear, that's a trip. But yeah, just a new way. A weird way, but a new way, something that I'm probably constantly getting used to.
What happens if there's another hurricane [unclear] ?
That's a hard one. I don't know. I really don't know. Most people I know say we'll try it once. If it happens again, we out of here. I hate to even think about that, I swear. I really don't know. We probably wouldn't have a choice. It ain't that I would want it, but it's just like how you going to sink all your money back into something when you're so unsure about what's going to happen? To me, I guess we probably wouldn't have a choice, but I'd have to probably see that to even believe it, because I couldn't imagine—. It still goes back to you're permanently altered. That's the whole thing I don't get, that I hate, is that it's life-altering things that came about because of this hurricane. If it would just change a couple of things, but it's just bam, just life-changing everything. So I don't really know. That's a hard one to answer. Almost everybody I know says they'd try it once and that's it. I guess if nobody came back and I was the only fool to come back [Laughter] , I guess I would learn to handle it, just be like okay, you're going to have to just go somewhere. I'd probably have to pick a place like wherever, however my family is and try to kind of pick a place in between us or something like that maybe. That's a really hard question. That's a really hard one. I didn't get to that one yet [Laughter] .
Down the road.
Down the road. To be continued.
Yeah. I just have one last question for you. How is Bernard and New Orleans different?
I mean really just—. Mostly, well, they got the French Quarter, and it's kind of like famous. They got Bourbon Street. It's got more historic—plenty of the buildings are like historic, all the different areas, but really and truly, like I told you, all of the people from Saint Bernard are from New Orleans. I could guarantee you ninety-nine percent of them are. So as far as that goes, there really is no difference. This is just, like I was saying, to get out of the city, and this was kind of like the country but actually only ten minutes away. So this was everybody's answer to kind of slowing it down a little bit, because up in New Orleans it's just twenty-four/seven. It's just party, party, party. Well, we can go there and party, and we get to come back home, you know what I mean? But that's the only thing I could think of would be the historic value to that and they just made it famous, just the name of it. New Orleans is just famous. Most of us are from there, and this was kind of more laid back than that. But then you still got the best of both because you're right on [the] outskirts. It's kind of like on edge. Still go partying, still go home and be laid-back if you want.
It's just nobody knows that we here. That's the thing. That's really the only probably difference is that nobody knows—probably nobody even heard of this place, you know? And it's just like ten minutes. Outside of that, they got diverse cultures of people down here, too. They tend to kind of—. A lot of tourists and stuff go there. It's kind of a that kind of a place, but if I had to, I'd move back there. Actually, they got less water than we got [Laughter] . My old house—we used to live on [unclear] Street up there—it didn't even get any water. But the property value's probably five times what it was. It's five times more now, but it's not really a bad place to live. It's just that this was kind of—. It had better schools, and the only thing I could describe is like country-city, even though it's just ten minutes away. It's just kind of more rural than urban kind of, but as far as the people, it's basically the same people.
The people down here made that what it is, pretty much. We just call it like the city. You know, we [unclear] to the city. It's just like a hop, skip, and a jump. It ain't nothing. When we lived in the city, we used to just call like Canal Street, that was uptown. This was downtown. You know what I mean? There really wasn't much of a difference, ever. It's just they got a lot more tourists, a lot more publicity, and whatever. We just kind of get forgotten about, and for the longest time, that was good. That's kind of why everybody moved here. It's kind of like okay, we just going to be down here and chill out. That's pretty much the way it went, but they ain't a whole lot difference. We don't have Bourbon Street down here. We still got bars, we still got crazy people, but for like Mardi Gras, they still go party up there. It's just when they finish partying, they got somewhere different to come home to. That's probably the only difference. Most people wouldn't realize that [Laughter] .
Probably got places like that everywhere. It's just people don't realize it till like something happens, but we got the hurricane way worse than they did. It's just the way it's made, like just the way the lakes run and the way that storm came that direction, and it's just the way it happened. I mean, who can explain that? But I do know that my street I used to live on, they didn't get absolutely no water. That's like strange to me. We have some people, I mean they had so much water down here, it was ridiculous. But we got it from like three or four different places down here. The water was steady coming in, so that's probably why we just got it so much worse. I don't know. Years ago, they said they flooded [unclear] , which is between like here and New Orleans, to keep the French Quarter from flooding. That was kind of like what always had been said, that they actually blew the levees up to keep—because they, you know, since it's a tourist kind of thing, that's the way they did it, I guess. I don't even necessarily know that that's true, but that's what I was always told. And who knows? Could be something like that now.
At first, I did hear stuff like that, but then you never see it [unclear] news no more. I was thinking okay, it's kind of like the political little secret thing going on, but it was just a really bad hurricane. It was just we was right in the way of it. That's the whole bottom line. That's what happened. Had it [gone], you know, five miles a different way or whatever, it might have been a totally different scenario. It just so happens it just happened like that. When you ride up in New Orleans—. I mean, don't get me wrong. There's a lot of stuff that's devastated there, too, but plenty of them places got water in and water in. Like [unclear] the water, it just stayed. You know what I mean? It was just so much all at one time. I don't know that anything could help that, except if it wouldn't have came [Laughter] . What do you say about something like that? But there's really no difference. It's all in the name. That's what I think.
Do you think New Orleans and this area—? Or what is the soul or the spirit of this area?
I don't know. I don't know how you would describe it. Everybody just goes for anything. That's just the kind of people. They just got a different way about them. They go along with anything and whatever, whatever. It's the same exact thing as with the heart and soul of New Orleans. It's mostly about the people. It's the diversity of all of the different people. Everybody that's down here likes the same things that everybody—. I mean, it's all the same. I don't know. They got like a love of life, a love of the area, everything. The traditions, the cultures, the music. Everything's just pretty much the same. It's just like down here it's a slower-down version, and it's because everybody been there, done that. It's kind of like a thing like that. I wouldn't really say there's a whole lot of difference at all. Like I said, most of the people, that's what made New Orleans what it was to start with was like our fathers and mothers and grandmothers and grandfathers. I mean, it's all part of it. Everybody's just raised—. It's kind of like family means a lot. Of course, they got exceptions in every rule, but mostly that's just what it is, at least for us anyway. That's the way I think about it.
Why do you think people forgot about Saint Bernard?
I have no idea. The only thing that I could think of was just because New Orleans happened to be a famous name that people knew. Like I said, I don't think a lot of people know—. Probably nine out of ten people you talk to probably have never heard of Saint Bernard Parish, [unclear] , and maybe even like other parishes in Louisiana. I don't think they like specifically picked one out. It's just that New Orleans is so well known that when you heard about everything on the news, don't you think the focus is just New Orleans, New Orleans, New Orleans? I don't know why that is. Maybe because the media made it like that. I definitely think it wasn't because they were more devastated. I think this parish was so devastated that I can't even believe that they didn't talk about it on TV. The only thing I can think of is that the media just chose to portray that side or whatever, but actually that's what happened. They really did get forgotten about, and I don't know how that happens, but they did. When nobody shows up to help nobody for almost two weeks, what else can you say? I mean, how can anybody answer that? But if you talk to people that stayed in the water down here, they will definitely tell you nobody helped them, that it was everybody helping each other. It's not right.
I mean, I remember us being in Baton Rouge. We were calling the state police, and some kind of way—. My husband's brother, he was down here like nine days or something before he got rescued, and some kind of way one of them got a phone call to my mother-in-law, and they was freaking out because they were still living. And we started calling the state police trying to tell them, and after the fact my sister and them was in Florida, and they did the same thing. They were calling and saying, "Why is nobody helping the people in Saint Bernard? There's people drowning." People are still living, waiting to be rescued and stuff like that, and still, it took like almost two weeks for people to come help anybody. I mean, we was thinking like maybe nobody knows that they still got people there. I remember I personally called the state police and kept telling them, because you can't even imagine—. I don't know why they didn't do it.
It just didn't seem like nobody was doing anything, and they definitely didn't have it on TV. Maybe they figured that there was a major screw-up and they knew it. Maybe they was just trying—hoping nobody would find out. It just seemed weird. I mean, we couldn't even find—hear anything about nothing down here. To me, if we couldn't find out, what if nobody knew? That's what we was thinking. You figured they got a National Guard, one of the biggest right in [unclear] . How nobody would know [Laughter] ? That's like hard to believe, but nobody came to help. I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. I'm sure it was supposed to be somebody's job that should have knew. At first, we heard that they wasn't showing pictures down here because of all the bodies. Still, you don't really know it was true. We was just hearing little bits and pieces of stuff, but we knew it was bad enough that they wouldn't show nothing, you know? I know it seems like they ought to try to make up for that, but it don't seem like they really doing that either.
They're not helping Saint Bernard out very much right now?
Does it look like it? No. No. I mean, they still got people that we know that's waiting for FEMA trailers. We lucky. We'd probably still be waiting for one. We told them we didn't need one because we had a place to stay. I remember me and my husband saying it. Well, we'll just tell them we don't need one because somebody else probably else could use it, but then so many people were still waiting to get them. They still not helping. I mean, they don't even come around and pick up the trash. What's easier than that? If you come and you got your own building and you put the stuff out—. I mean, we ain't asking them to come do it. This is a main highway, and look at the piles of trash everywhere you go. How hard is it to do that, to just get a machine and load it in some trucks and be done with it? To me, if that's not done, nobody's really trying to do anything. I mean, what is easier than that? You think that's the least you could—. Like now in plenty neighborhoods they got rats. That's like crazy. They're big as cats because of all of the trash and the garbage.
You know like the big garbage cans you see? One day I think we had six of them because we had all these apartments, and rented trucks came one day and they came, turned over the garbage on the driveways, and loaded all the garbage cans up on the truck and left with them. I don't know why. We took the two garbage cans that's out on the side, we took them down from our house and brought them up here so that we could use them. Every time the garbage man's coming, one of us is looking out there to make sure they ain't taking the garbage can again. What kind of sense does that make? Because Waste Management wanted their garbage cans back? What is that about? It's crazy. If they would go around and say if they just had to choose one thing to do, pick up the trash. How much better would it be if you don't have to see all of that trash? To me, that don't seem like a lot to ask. I'm sorry, but it just don't seem like much. Maybe they need the president to come in and tell them they need to do it. I don't know. But I swear, they never do it.
Actually, it was probably just about a month ago when they picked up some trash we had out with those apartments gutted out onto the side, onto the side of it, and I went out there and they started picking that up. I asked them, "Could you please come—I mean y'all right here. Could you come by the front because we trying to open our business back up and stuff?" And they told me, "No, we can't do that." They said, "That's the state." So evidently there's some kind of confusion as far as—what? I don't know. State people's got to pick up trash on the state [unclear] . That don't sound like that's normal, but that's absolutely what the governor said.
And for a while, they had stopped picking up all the garbage altogether. I'm not talking about just like household garbage like the debris, because like FEMA or whoever was supposed to be paying these guys stopped paying them. They owe them like how many millions of dollars or whatever, and so you can't blame the guys. They ain't going to do it for nothing, so they quit picking it up. So then the day when they were going to start picking it up, they had a big story on the news—oh, they're going to start picking up trash in Saint Bernard again. I'm like, can you believe this? They're actually going to get on the news and say that. It seemed crazy, but you see the state still ain't doing nothing with the highway trash. You can ride all the way—. I don't know, down by our house they picked it up, but that was after we gutted it. It's been while since we threw stuff out down there.
And you figure like they telling people, you know, you want to get your businesses back and running. Well, if people could see over the debris that you got a business, maybe that would be one thing. So you know, you don't understand. You don't get it, like, but to me, they could at least do that. For the most part, the people's doing the work themselves. Plenty of people signed up to get their houses gutted out and whatever, like volunteers come around and do it, I guess, but they still got a whole load of them that's not done. But like we said, they ain't nobody going to do it. We didn't ever think they were going to have volunteers come and do it. We just figured we had to come do it, so that's what we did [Laughter] . It wasn't nice either, I can promise. It was nasty. Ooh, but I don't know. Most people probably doing their own, I would think.
Most of the ones that I know did their own. Like old people or whatever, we had some old people in the back here, they cleaned their yard. They never could do their house. I mean, they in their eighties. They were going to try to do it, but I even told them, I said, "That's a way bigger job than you think." I think plenty of like the older people probably sign up for like spring break [unclear] college kids and stuff came down and helped people, picking stuff like gutting their houses or whatever. We didn't wait around for none of that. We had to just do it. I mean, nobody knew that they were going to have people to do it. Still, I don't think there'd ever be enough people to ever do all of that. If anybody needs help, like older people probably need it the worst because they physically can't get out there and do it.
Yeah, the trash is a big problem down here, and when you go through New Orleans, you don't see that much trash. Some places you do, but not like down here, so what's the difference? I don't know. It seems like there shouldn't be a difference. It seems like it's maybe a political deal. It's got to be something. All I know is I don't have trucks big enough to move it [Laughter] . It's got to sit there until somebody decides what they're going to do. We got it out there; what else you going to do? But pretty soon we got to have like the sod and we still got to pile on sod, but I need that for parking for people that's [unclear] . My husband even said, "I don't know what we—. I'm going to have to go back here, pick all of that stuff up, put it on the trailers, and bring it around front to this side, just so people have somewhere to park." Is that crazy, but what else you going to do? You wouldn't even think that, but that's the way it goes. Crazy.