Outside New Orleans, Thanksgiving and Reconstruction

Donald and Colleen Bordelon stayed in their home in Saint Bernard Parish, outside New Orleans, through the flooding of Hurricane Katrina. Today, they're among the few residents on their street to remain. Donald Bordelon says they used to be seven houses from their corner. They're now three houses from the corner as more houses in the area are torn down.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Two of those trailers crowd the lawn in front of that brick-fronted home just east of New Orleans. The house is in St. Bernard Parish. It's a modest little post-war house with a second floor addition on the back, and it's home for two people who have become regulars on MORNING EDITION.

Mr. and Mrs. Bordelon.

Ms. COLLEEN BORDELON: Yes.

Mr. DONALD BORDELON: Hey.

INSKEEP: Happy holiday to you.

Ms. BORDELON: Happy holiday to you, too.

Mr. BORDELON: Same to you.

INSKEEP: This week we picked up a phone and reached Donald and Colleen Bordelon. The Bordelon's have been sharing their story with us since shortly after Hurricane Katrina. They would not leave their home even when the first floor was flooded, so it's no surprise that as they stay in those trailers nearby, they are repairing the home.

Are you in the house today?

Ms. BORDELON: Yes.

Mr. BORDELON: Yeah, we in the house, man, looking at our sheetrock.

INSKEEP: Oh my goodness. When we were last in the house it was just a bunch of those two-by-fours everywhere. You're saying you've got walls now?

Mr. BORDELON: Oh, we got walls, man, we got doors, we got heaters.

INSKEEP: Does that mean you've almost returned to civilization?

Mr. BORDELON: Getting close. Maybe by the first of the year, you know?

INSKEEP: Colleen, how you been?

Ms. BORDELON: Oh, I'm hanging in there, you know, day-by-day, same old stuff.

INSKEEP: Are you planning a big Thanksgiving dinner?

Ms. BORDELON: Yes, we are. Tons and tons of food - turkey, we'll have the dirty rice, cornbread, dressing, we'll have the green bean casserole. Oh, don't forget your pumpkin pie.

Mr. BORDELON: It takes six to eight hours to cut all the seasoning up to put in the turkey and the rice and everything else, you know? Most people just slap a little butter, salt, pepper, stick it in the oven, you know?

INSKEEP: Now can you describe how things are going in the neighborhood? The last time that we visited, some of your neighbors were fixing to move back in, although many other houses were about to be torn down.

Mr. BORDELON: Well, they got a lot more houses tore down, but we still have a few neighbors, you know. I hate to say it, we kind of like moving into the country. Because I used to be seven houses off the corner, now I'm only three houses off the corner because they tore down the other houses. It's just a big open space you know?

Ms. BORDELON: Well, with the time change it gets darker a lot quicker and there's not many streetlights, you know. We're fortunate the one by us is lit, but the one at the corner isn't. So when you look out the window in the camper, it's dark up the street.

INSKEEP: Are there stores and restaurants that are opening up in St. Bernard Parish?

Mr. BORDELON: Oh, yeah. St. Bernard Parish is coming back. They don't have the people they had before, but it's coming back. To tell you the truth, we went to a wedding. A friend of ours got married Saturday. We had a really good time, man. We sat there and talked about old times and things like that.

INSKEEP: Do think you will ever reach a moment when you'll say, this episode is over, this is the end?

Mr. BORDELON: Yeah, you know what? When the house is back together, man, and I ain't sitting here looking at cement floors, you know, and I'm looking at my brand new doors hanging on the wall right here. I ordered them, got them, never had time to put them in yet, you know. Yeah, it'll be one day next year, you know. It's just, what really kind of upsets you more is really, you ride down here and, look it, that house is gone. Or remember that big, pretty blue house, hon? It's gone, too, you know? What they going do with all this space, you know? What kind of houses they going put up? Who's going be across the street from you, you know?

INSKEEP: Colleen, when do you think this story will be written, you'll be through the last chapter?

Ms. BORDELON: I guess like Donald said, just sitting on our own furniture in our house, you know. Oh, wait a minute.

(Soundbite of air compressor)

INSKEEP: What just happened?

Mr. BORDELON: Sorry about that, man. The air compressor kicked on in the house. We use the nail gun, you know, and every now and then the air pressure goes kind of low and it kicks on by itself.

INSKEEP: Well, um...

Ms. BORDELON: I guess we just get back to normal, it'll be the final chapter, you know? We do have my daughter's wedding to look forward to and we still got prospects of the future. We just go, like I said, day-by-day.

INSKEEP: Well, Donald and Colleen, it's always great to talk with you.

Ms. BORDELON: You, too.

Mr. BORDELON: You, too, man.

INSKEEP: Happy Thanksgiving.

Mr. BORDELON: Same to you.

Ms. BORDELON: You, too.

(Soundbite of air compressor and nail gun)

INSKEEP: Donald and Colleen Bordelon fired up the air compressor and the nail gun after we talked. And just to be clear, it's for construction and not for their turkey on this Thanksgiving Day.

You can hear our previous conversations with the Bordelon's at NPR.org.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Support comes from: