The Bordelons, Rebuilding in St. Bernard's For many along the Gulf Coast, the holiday season brought a welcome chance to see family. But it didn't stop efforts to rebuild homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina. Between events, the Bordelon family has been stripping out and cleaning up their two-story home in their St. Bernard neighborhood.
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The Bordelons, Rebuilding in St. Bernard's

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The Bordelons, Rebuilding in St. Bernard's

The Bordelons, Rebuilding in St. Bernard's

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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On New Year's Eve, Donald(ph) and Colleen Bordelon(ph) stood along a levee outside New Orleans. They watched fireworks over the Mississippi River. The Bordelons are still living in their ruined home in St. Bernard Parish. We met them in October and we've been calling them ever since because they're almost the only people in their neighborhood who refuse to leave after Katrina. They want to fix their home. And they were in the house when we reached them yesterday morning.

Mr. and Mrs. Bordelon.

Mrs. COLLEEN BORDELON (Resident, St. Bernard Parish): Yes.

Mr. DONALD BORDELON (Resident, St. Bernard Parish): Hey, how you doing?

INSKEEP: What kind of a day is it there in New Orleans?

Mr. BORDELON: Oh, it's a beautiful day. It really is, man. We're sitting inside by the fireplace here, man. And...

INSKEEP: You got a fire going?

Mr. BORDELON: No, we don't have no--we was going to light it up, man. All we got is a fireplace with, like, a thousand bricks on the wall and the rest of them, we're looking at two-by-fours, man, you know...

INSKEEP: Because you've torn out all the walls and everything.

Mr. BORDELON: Oh, yeah, all the walls are gone. We're waiting for this structural engineer guy to come. And you can see the structure's OK. You know, no walls are caved in or nothing like that, you know. But we don't have no--we can't get the electricity turned on at the house until we get the structural engineer deal, you know.

INSKEEP: We've been coming back to you in part because you were virtually the only people on your block and, in fact, it seemed in your neighborhood who...


INSKEEP: ...had returned home. Have very many people decided to demolish their homes right around you?

Mr. BORDELON: No. No, man. Nobody really has. And I tell you what a lot of people is doing, is seeing what they can get for their houses just like they are here before they tear them down. A $100,000 house now is going for 20, 25,000, $30,000, you know. And it's, you know, really all you're doing is buying a frame and the land, you know.

INSKEEP: And do they have real estate brokers coming by with prospective buyers, saying, `Well, this house needs a little work'?

Mr. BORDELON: Yeah, they do, believe it or not, man. They had some people out on the street just the other day, man. They came and looked at two houses. They're just seeing what they can get, what they can buy cheap, you know.

INSKEEP: Colleen Bordelon, it seems the last time we spoke in November, you had some kind of a chalk outline on your driveway like you'd have for a dead body, only it was where you were hoping to have a trailer placed.

Mrs. BORDELON: Correct. They were supposed to deliver two, but they only brought one. So when my in-laws came back, they took over that trailer; we still sleeping upstairs.

INSKEEP: Your in-laws used to live in the house with you?


INSKEEP: Are your in-laws willing to share the shower in the trailer?

Mrs. BORDELON: Oh, yeah. But it's just easier for us to just heat the water up, you know.

INSKEEP: Oh, you're still doing that inside the house? You've got a makeshift shower inside the house.

Mrs. BORDELON: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, we still standing in the tub, pouring the water over our heads. But at least we have water pressure up. I got so excited, I thought it was like winning the lottery. We got water pressure where you can flush the toilet upstairs.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: You got the Pick 6.

Mrs. BORDELON: I was in hog heaven. You know, we used to bring up, like, six gallons of water to heat up to take a bath. Now we put the bucket in--the big pot in the tub, fill it up, put it on a burner, heat it up and then take our bath.

INSKEEP: Now I heard you've got some family news, that your daughter is getting married.

Mr. BORDELON: Yeah, that's terrific, man. That is. We found that out--a matter of fact, it was Christmas Eve night, you know. We went up to Baton Rouge, up by my daughter and them, you know, to spend Christmas with them. And as soon as we got there--we call him Dixon(ph), and he says, `Mr. Donald, I'd like to know if I could have your daughter's hand in marriage,' you know. And I said, `Of course, man, you know, I've been waiting for this day, you know.' Best Christmas present I ever got.

INSKEEP: And, Colleen, have you been talking to your daughter about planning for the wedding?

Mrs. BORDELON: Oh, yeah. Well, she always--well, we talked before she got engaged, and she always wanted to have an outdoor wedding down by a friend of my in-laws', Ms. Sylvia's house, underneath the gazebo and all of that. But unfortunately, the gazebo is no longer there.

INSKEEP: The gazebo was destroyed in the storm.

Mrs. BORDELON: Well, yes. The house is there; the gazebo's just gone.

INSKEEP: I have a feeling, talking to you folks, that you're going to have a fine time at that wedding all the same.

Mrs. BORDELON: Oh, we will. We always do.

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

Mrs. BORDELON: We appreciate it.

Mr. BORDELON: And the only thing I need, man, from you guys is about 15 carpenters to come down here to St. Bernard Parish and give us a hand.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BORDELON: That's all I need from you all, man, you know.


Mr. BORDELON: Send me about 15 or 20 carpenters down here. Maybe on weekend we can do something, you know.

INSKEEP: If I meet one, I'll send him your way.

Mr. BORDELON: It sounds like a winner, man.

INSKEEP: Bye-bye now.

Mr. BORDELON: All right now. You-all have a good day.

INSKEEP: The Bordelons spoke to us from their home in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana.


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