Many of you new readers here haven’t had a chance to read the stories of hurricane evacuations, flooding, and the resulting cleanup. You’ve missed out on the trials and tribulations of dealing with The Road Home program, designed to help those who had flood insurance intact to recover from the floodwaters of Hurricane Rita in 2005. She was the storm that made landfall on the southwestern coast of Louisiana, close to the Texas border. Even so, my parish, 180 miles to the east, experienced a 9-foot storm surge that put about a foot of water in our home, which was about four feet off the ground at the time.
The Road Home turned out to be a long road home, which is the best way I can put it. Lest anyone begrudges us this help to rebuild, just know that the hoops were many and high, sometimes ringed with fire. The six-year process was laborious, tedious, and drawn out beyond belief, but in the end, well worth the test of endurance. Our family didn’t qualify for hundreds of thousands, and rightly so, as our home wasn’t worth a whole lot in comparison to those in New Orleans that flooded from the first of that double whammy of hurricane havoc in 2005–Katrina. Yet, we all suffered just the same.
With our flood insurance reimbursement and help from The Road Home program, we were able to eek together enough to build a meager metal house, above the flood plain. What a relief to be 11 feet in the air. We’ve been high in the sky for three years now, and the final phase of the being “made whole” was the demolition of the old house.
Since y’all were with us during the time of building the new house, I thought you might need to be part of the demolition of the old place, just to provide closure, as it were. Maybe it has taken me two weeks to write about it because the final reality of the old house being gone was a little like ripping off a band-aid that has been on the wound way too long. Seems odd, but I’d gotten used to seeing the storm-blighted building on the front of our property.
We had lived in the old place since our youngest, Termite, was a baby. It’s the only home he knew. We reared five children in that place, lived a lot of life, and made a lot of memories. Good thing about memories–they remain intact long after the final bits of debris hit the dumpster.
On a hot and humid August morning, the demolition crew showed up around 9:00 AM, with an excavator, a Bobcat, and a dumpster-type truck. Clearly, they were ready to rock and roll. While they put everything in place, I lolly-gagged around, and before I knew it, the excavator engine roared to life, sending me scurrying to get my camera.
Heck, I almost missed it! Starting in the center section of the house, the big bucket banged down on the roof, gouging it out in no time at all.
Then, the operator shifted to the right, attacking the bedroom side of the house. The huge machine made light work of knocking down the roof and walls.
Turning then to the kitchen-dining trailer, the ease with which that section tumbled down was just mind-blowing. The parish official next to me said, “And that is why NO ONE should ride out any kind of storm in a mobile home.” Uh, yes sir, I had to agree.
Then using the big bucket like a broom, the operator swept everything into a big pile, while I sat on the front porch of the new house watching with mixed emotions. My friend, Kim, was down from New Mexico, and I’m glad she was with me offering moral support.
And then I saw it!
What looked like my old big, heavy metal filing cabinet that held years of files and other paper detritus of life, tumbled over on the rubble heap. “Oh no! What is that still doing in the old house?” For you see, the old place was so stinky and full of mold and depressing, that I had not been in it in a very long time. I thought everything we wanted to keep had long since been removed.
Kim said “Hurry! Go ask him to stop. I’m sure he will let you get your filing cabinet!” It took me a few moments to get up the courage to ask the operator to stop his frenzy of destruction long enough to look for my filing cabinet in the rubble heap.
Yes, it was there, badly dented and distorted, but still holding the treasures of time and tax records.
The jaws of the bucket beast latched onto the crumpled cabinet, as the operator swung it over near where we were standing, letting it drop from its claws with a heavy thud. The second worker generously hopped aboard the Bobcat and brought the filing cabinet, placing it under the new house so we could pry the mangled drawers open and retrieve their contents.
I have to thank Kim for prodding me to interrupt their progress long enough to retrieve the filing cabinet. While there might not be much in it that really needed rescuing, I know she was right when she said I would regret not having the chance to go through it.
It’s amazing how 15 years of life in a place was demolished in mere minutes. Well, our lives weren’t demolished, but you know what I mean. Of course, it took much longer for them to haul off all the bits and pieces of our old homestead, but the horrible memories of living in a place that had flooded twice–during Rita in 2005 and again during Ike in 2008, didn’t go with it. During the demo, the dank smell of mold and mildew that we had lived with for six years wafted through the air, giving me the courage to say “Good riddance to old rubbish.”
To all of you who, like us, pay your taxes, I would like to say thank you for your part in donating (albeit involuntarily) to the Road Home dollars that eventually helped us re-build above the flood plain. Be reassured that we made every penny count, we were conservative in our choices, and we never, ever took the program for granted. To those of you who volunteered man hours, our family is forever grateful to you and thankful for your love of mankind and your generous spirits. Hopefully, your family will never need such help, but if you do, we will not begrudge you the government dollars and volunteer manpower to help you recover. Plus, we’ll be there lending a hand if we can!
Now, I can see the beautiful Bayou Dularge and the marsh beyond with my morning coffee. At first, I felt naked and exposed to all the passers by, having been so shielded from their passing by the old, blighted house. But just a short two weeks later, I can appreciate the view while the old house becomes a faded memory. It comforts me to know the life we experienced there will be re-lived in the stories our five children share for many years to come.
PS: If you click on a photo, it will appear in a larger version with the option to view all the photos in a slide show! Nifty feature! Enjoy the photos, y’all!