Our second day in Louisiana we were taken to the home of Tony and Elena. Their house is in Chalmette. This is one of the hardest hit areas by Hurricane Katrina. They live close to the marsh and when the levees broke the water was carried to their house with lots of marsh mud. Tony and Elena have lived in this house for 32 years. Their son lives two doors down, their daughter Elizabeth who grew up in this home came with us to help and this was the first time she had been back to the house to see the damage.
So when we got there we found a house full of about 4 inches of mud...mixed with their belongings. Tony had already started the clean up process and had gotten rid of all the furniture and appliances. That helped us be able to just shovel mud and tear down sheet rock. We tried to save as many things as we could. There were a few ladies out back who washed dishes the whole time. The mud didn't smell very pleasant but we just worked as hard as we could to get it cleaned out of the house. We found many frogs and even a snake in the mud. I got paid a great compliment while shoveling out the back bedroom with Ralph. He asked me if I was a farm girl. I told him no and then he said, you work like a farm girl (that was the complement) . Then I told him that I was a swimmer and he said, "that's where you must get your strong shoulders from." So I though that was pretty nice of him to say. We worked all morning long and then Elizabeth and I went to get sandwiches for everyone. We drove around the neighborhood and she just kept telling me who the people were that had lived in those homes. It was so sad. Imagine what you see on TV and in pictures and then imagine that it has happened to every house on the street. It's not like when there is a house fire and one house has to be gutted and maybe torn down, it's the whole street, the whole neighborhood, the whole town, the whole area...and then some. It's just hard to imagine. I couldn't imagine it before I had seen it and now I can't get the pictures out of my head.
After lunch we kept working and got to the point where we could start tearing out the sheet rock. We got most of that done as well. When Matt and I were working on the study I came across some of their photo albums. This is the part that made me the most sad. As you know I am a picture person so to have photo albums ruined by water made my heart break. I know it's just pictures, but it's memories, it's more than that. Maybe I'm being silly by saying that but it's just how I felt at the time. Some of the albums had pretty bad water damage but others we were able to pull the pictures out of them and put them on a board to dry. It was a hard day of work but we really felt like we helped someone out. It was a great feeling to know that they were a little closer to getting back to normal...whatever that may be for them. We went back to Slidell, got cleaned up and then went to Elizabeth's house for dinner. She has a beautiful home that was just recently built. We had red beans and rice and bread pudding. It was a delicious meal and a great time to socialize and get to know them a little better. Elizabeth showed us some pictures of her parents home before the storm on her computer. Tony and Elena had just finished a renovation on their kitchen three weeks before the storm. It was Elena's dream kitchen and it was beautiful. It looked like a picture from a home and gardens magazine or something. What a loss. I cannot even imagine what I would do if that happened to me. Tony and Elena were so good about the whole thing. They said they have moved past it and realized that it's okay, they and their family are okay and that is what is important. It also helped me to realize how many material posessions I have and how those things are not so important. What an incredible journey. I cannot wait for the day that I can go back to Slidell, help clean, and just see some friends. God bless you!