Update from Louisiana's Bordelon Family

Steve Inskeep talks with Donald and Colleen Bordelon, residents of St. Bernard Parish, La., with whom he visited in the weeks after Hurricane Katrina. Donald is now back at work and Colleen is helping to clean up and rebuild the demolished first floor of their house.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

Months after Hurricane Katrina, Gulf Coast residents are still living it. That includes the husband and wife we'll meet again this morning.

INSKEEP: We first met them about 40 days after the flood. They were almost the only people in their neighborhood in St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans. Donald and Colleen Bordelon took us up on the roof, where they kept a generator for their ruined home.

Mr. DONALD BORDELON (Hurricane Survivor): Fill it up, check the oil, crank it up and hope it's still running in the morning.

INSKEEP: What's it like when you stand on this roof and look around the neighborhood, and at night, everything's dark?

Mrs. COLLEEN BORDELON (Hurricane Survivor): Oh, but it's peaceful, and you can see the stars. We come out, we sit up on the roof. Sometimes, we'll eat our dinner out here, look at the lights in the city.

INSKEEP: Today some of their neighbors are coming back to clean up, but the Bordelons remain among the few who sleep there at night and get up early to keep cleaning out the house.

Mr. BORDELON: Hey, good morning.

Mrs. BORDELON: Hey, good morning.

Mr. BORDELON: How you doing?

INSKEEP: It's good to talk to you again.

Mr. BORDELON: Oh, it's nice to talk to you, buddy. It's a beautiful morning this morning. The sun's coming up. You know, you got that little blue haze in the sky and just getting ready to go to work, you know.

INSKEEP: You're going back to the shipyard again today.

Mr. BORDELON: Yes, sir, I sure am, man. Getting along, got a little more of the house tore out. My terrific wife, she's been doing a lot of carpenter work while I'm working at work.

INSKEEP: How's your generator holding up?

Mr. BORDELON: My generator's running beautiful, buddy. We got the lights burning right now, man. A lot of complaints with the parish, you know. I think they could have had the electricity up a little bit faster, you know. They could have a little more water pressure, but it's just so widespread. It's really hard. You know, they only have so many people working, you know.

Mrs. BORDELON: But they did--we got bright news. The man came from FEMA and drew where our little trailer's going to go. We're just waiting for it.

INSKEEP: FEMA has come and offered to put a trailer basically in your driveway.

Mrs. BORDELON: Correct.

INSKEEP: And have they given you an idea how quickly you might have a trailer where you can live as you continue to restore your house?

Mrs. BORDELON: No, they just tell you soon.

INSKEEP: Last time we talked, you told us that you had a nephew who had just gone over to Iraq. He's in the military.

Mr. BORDELON: Yeah.

INSKEEP: Have you heard any news?

Mr. BORDELON: Not good news. Got hit by a piece of shrapnel, I hate to say it like this, but in his behind. It's not really bad. It's--they won't send him home. They're treating him. He goes to the doctor every day because...

Mrs. BORDELON: For infection.

Mr. BORDELON: ...it's kind of like eating out his skin, and we don't know if the hole is as big as a dime. We don't know if it's a big as half a dollar. We don't know if it's as big as a Coke can. We really don't know too much. He sent some pictures home. Pictures are beautiful. He looks terrific. He really does, you know.

INSKEEP: You had a couple of grown children who were living with you before the hurricane, right?

Mrs. BORDELON: Correct. Everybody's, you know, OK and, you know, we did lose my mom and we're still waiting to lay her to rest, you know, to get closure on that.

INSKEEP: I want to remember this story. Your mother was evacuated and was in Texas and was not well and...

Mrs. BORDELON: Passed away, yes.

INSKEEP: ...died in Texas. And you've still been unable to bury her weeks later.

Mrs. BORDELON: We're waiting for the funeral parlor to give us the OK. All we want is a graveside service. All my brothers and sisters, there's nine of us left, and we want to put her next to my daddy where she belongs.

INSKEEP: St. Bernard Parish.

Mrs. BORDELON: In St. Bernard, yes.

INSKEEP: Are you as determined to stay in St. Bernard Parish as you were when you spoke with us a few weeks ago?

Mr. BORDELON: Yes, indeed, buddy. I love it down here, you know. Got a friend of mine, we can put a new roof on the house, but, you know, you hate to put a roof on the house and then next week, the engineers come in and say, `Oh, we're going to tear this place down,' you know. How can you fight that, you know? They ain't going to tear my house down, believe me, but my house right now, I could put some paneling in it and some Sheetrock and some paint on it, some new doors and, you know, make it really look nice again, you know.

INSKEEP: Now that you folks have lived through a couple of months of just incredible events, are there days when you wake up and you go about your business in the morning and things start to actually seem normal?

Mr. BORDELON: I guess so, just our little normal routine, you know. When I leave in the morning, `Hon, we've got to maybe take this wall down or move this,' you know, and I come home, she says, `Come see how I did.' You did terrific, hon. Whatever she does is, you know--every day, a little more done, a little more done, you know, and you read about other people, like they don't even have a house. All they have is a slab left. So we really thank the Lord that we got four walls.

Mrs. BORDELON: We've got more than most. We got something to start with.

INSKEEP: Well, Donald and Colleen Bordelon, thank you so much for speaking with us.

Mrs. BORDELON: Thank you.

Mr. BORDELON: Yeah, thank you very much, buddy. Maybe we'll talk again in a couple weeks, you know.

INSKEEP: I would love to do that. Let's talk again.

Mr. BORDELON: I would, too, man.

INSKEEP: Let's keep talking.

Mr. BORDELON: I really--I enjoy this, you know.

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