New Orleans Couple Finding it Hard to Hold On One year ago, Stephen and Pam DeFerrare left their flooded New Orleans home in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, carrying their neighbors, pets and whatever possessions they could fit in a small boat. Now they're back home, but find it difficult to hold on to hope for the city's future.
NPR logo

New Orleans Couple Finding it Hard to Hold On

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5749768/5749769" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
New Orleans Couple Finding it Hard to Hold On

New Orleans Couple Finding it Hard to Hold On

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5749768/5749769" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand. In a few minutes: reviews of this weekend's new movies.

First, we catch up with the DeFerraris. They're a New Orleans couple we talked with in the days after Hurricane Katrina hit. I spoke with Stephen DeFerrari exactly one year ago today.

Mr. STEPHEN DEFERRARI (New Orleans Resident): I haven't slept since, I don't know, Saturday. I haven't eaten much. We do have plenty of water, so that's one good thing. But I guess when the shock hits, it's unbelievable. I wouldn't even know how to describe it. It's just totally unbelievable.

BRAND: That's Stephen DeFerrari a year ago. He and his wife Pam join me now. And Stephen hearing yourself from a year ago, you say that it hadn't really hit you yet, that it was so unbelievable. When did it hit you?

Mr. DEFERRARI: Probably weeks later, when we finally got to Baton Rouge and started seeing it on television, on CNN every night. I guess that's when it hit me.

BRAND: And Pam?

Ms. PAM DEFERRARI (New Orleans Resident): It's hard to describe when it hits you. But I guess the initial part when I got up to Baton Rouge and I saw the whole block on Carrollton Avenue burning down and all the other things we'd already gone through, it just seemed like - you would think what else, what else? And every time you thought that, there was something else.

BRAND: When we spoke with you a year ago, you were defending your canoe with a gun.

Mr. DEFERRARI: Oh, yes. Fortunately, I never needed to use the gun and we did eventually get out in the canoe, but I definitely remember it.

Ms. DEFERRARI: Yeah, we got out with four other people we had met in the neighborhood. We all banded together. There was a dog and our seven cats. So between all of us, two canoe rides and a working ground phone, that was our life line, that's how we managed to get people to get us out.

BRAND: Had you not had the canoe...

Mr. DEFERRARI: Then I suppose we would have been waiting for the National Guard or the water to go down. And actually the canoe came in handy because we stayed a few extra days just to help other people, so - I would've stayed longer but Pam was...

Ms. DEFERRARI: It was very hot.

Mr. DEFERRARI: It was very hot.

Ms. DEFERRARI: I don't think I've ever been that hot before.

Mr. DEFERRARI: Very scary.

BRAND: Were you afraid that the waters would keep rising and your lives would be in danger?

Mr. DEFERRARI: Yeah, constantly. That was always in my mind, because it was rising slowly, but it just never seemed to stop.

Ms. DEFERRARI: My sister was in her house with her husband and my other sister and all their cats in Lakeview. She managed to get through at 2:00 a.m., and at that time we didn't know any levees had broken. But she was calling and telling me that they had eight feet of water in their house.

And I was thinking, okay, well, we'll come and get you tomorrow, in a few hours, and when I woke up four hours later we had water surrounding us. I wasn't able to get in touch with her after that. I didn't know what situation theirs was. I just knew it was grave.

BRAND: But she made it out?

Ms. DEFERRARI: She did.

Mr. DEFERRARI: They got rescued off their roof by a shrimp boat.

Ms. DEFERRARI: A shrimp boat, yeah.

BRAND: Pam, I still hear the emotion in your voice a year later. Does it seem like just yesterday that this happened?

Ms. DEFERRARI: No, I'm just sad.

Mr. DEFERRARI: A lot of time it seems like it's just yesterday to me.

Ms. DEFERRARI: Some days are better than others, you know. But that's the way it is.

Mr. DEFERRARI: And you think about it every day. Recently, we went on vacation and it was so nice not to think about it, not to be reminded of it every time you turn around. That was a high point in the last year.

BRAND: So you're back in your house.

Mr. DEFERRARI: Uh-huh.

BRAND: Are you going to stay?

Mr. DEFERRARI: We don't really know what we're going to do. We are thinking of getting away for a year, try some place new. Just not having to look at it every day for a year would be nice.

Ms. DEFERRARI: But my sister's here.

Mr. DEFERRARI: Yeah, and Pam's a twin. It's very difficult to separate her from her sister.

Ms. DEFERRARI: Well, she needs more than me and I need to be there for her.

BRAND: Pam, when you say - what makes you sad when you say you have bad days?

Ms. DEFERRARI: I'm sad to see my city ruined and lives lost and people dying in hospitals, even the mayhem that took place. I mean, it's just hard to fathom that in our country the times are this chaotic.

BRAND: Well, thank you both very, very much for coming in and sharing your story with us. I appreciate it.

Mr. DEFERRARI: Thank you.

Ms. DEFERRARI: Thank you.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: That's Pam and Stephen DeFerrari speaking from New Orleans.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.