Still Recovering, Two Years Later
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
I'm Farai Chideya, and this is NEWS & NOTES.
Last year, we introduced you to Marguerite Doyle-Johnston. Hurricane Katrina destroyed most of her Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood and her childhood home.
Ms. MARGUERITE DOYLE-JOHNSTON (Resident, New Orleans): Yeah. My grandfather built these house and some other houses on the block. He built it and this is where I've been all my life for 48 years. (Unintelligible).
CHIDEYA: Since the storm, Ms. Marguerite, as she's known to her neighbors, has been living in a FEMA trailer in her front yard. And she's still struggling to make ends meet.
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: What has happened is my daughter lives in Baton Rouge. She sends money to me. Also, my husband passed and I get his annuity. There's nothing left for nothing extra, you know? It's just by the grace of God that we continue to keep on keeping on.
CHIDEYA: Over the last year, we've checked in with Ms. Marguerite from time to time, and she's with us now.
Now, Ms. Marguerite, first of all, I am so sorry for your lost.
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: How are you doing? How are doing these days? You know, when we meet you - and I'm sure this is true now - you were a pillar of the neighborhood, holding other people up. Has anyone stepped in to hold you up?
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: No. Not - no one. The only person that stepped in to hold me up is God. By his graces, I'm still here.
CHIDEYA: Now, your son was 24 years old, lived in a trailer next to you, what is the latest on the investigation?
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: Not a thing. Nothing at all. I was informed, just Monday, that the NOPD has pledged to help find some other murder and they're going to stay with that particular family until they find the person that murdered someone else. And my son is once again kicked to the waste side.
CHIDEYA: Do you personally have any idea who it might have been?
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: Yes. But due to a detective wanting to make it seem as though my son had committed suicide. Using his word, it was so easy. They did not do what was necessary to seal the area in which my son was killed.
CHIDEYA: So let me move on to how you are living now. When we came by your block, you were living in a trailer just a few doors down from your house, which was being deconstructed in the hopes of being reconstructed. How's that going?
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: It's at a standstill, and I'm still in a trailer.
CHIDEYA: Do you have any inkling of whether or not you're going to be asked to give up that trailer?
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: Well, they may because of the formaldehyde in the trailers. They may ask us to give up the trailers, but I don't understand why they would want us to give up the trailers when there's no way for us to go because FEMA has contracted a third party to make payments to landlords, and a lot of the landlords are not taking that third party - those third-party payments.
CHIDEYA: So how's your block doing? I mean…
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: Well…
CHIDEYA: Are people still there or they've given up?
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: No. Mm-mm. We're not giving up. For no reason am I going to let the people in my neighborhood, a matter of fact in my community, give up. It's one house at a time. We didn't - redone two houses in the neighborhood and one more is being done now. I guess, eventually when Road Home send me my funding, I'll be doing my home.
CHIDEYA: Tell us what Road Home is.
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: Road Home is money that the federal government sent down here to New Orleans to help the people rebuild their homes. But they have run out of money, and you have to wait your turn.
CHIDEYA: You guys have so many challenges. You have the housing, the trailers, the rebuilding, the lack of jobs. So what keeps you and your people around you in New Orleans?
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: We love where we live. This is our home, and this is where we want to be. We've been - this is all we know, we've been here all our lives. We, you know, we sprayed it out all over different places, and we have to adjust to where we at. We're used to waking up in the morning and telling your neighbor, how are you doing? We're not used to nobody - if we speak to you, we anticipate you speaking back to us. You know, everybody know everybody in New Orleans. You know, we - everybody laugh at this slang when we say, how your mama now? But we know what that mean, you know? And - so, it's - that's the most difficult part of being away. You want to be home. Even though I'm not in my house, I'm near my home, and I'm okay with that.
CHIDEYA: Well, Ms. Marguerite, we wish you and your entire neighborhood the very best.
Ms. DOYLE-JOHNSTON: Thank you.
CHIDEYA: Marguerite Doyle-Johnston is a lifelong resident of New Orleans' Upper Ninth Ward, and she spoke with us from member station WWNO in New Orleans.
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