Neither Fern nor Wallace Richard were feeling well, so their children helped them board up and they evacuated to a safe place where he could depend on a generator for his oxygen. 5129 M&L Road in St. Martin was a little house with big memories.|
The Richards didn't have the energy to pack up much so as they walked out, Fern patted her favorite cut-glass bowl, shaped like a basket and always filled with seasonal flowers.
One of their sons, Darren, found the glass basket in rubble, unscratched, and now it is the centerpiece of her FEMA trailer. Darren also found a stuffed deer head and hung it on a pine tree next to the tent he erected the first week to watch over his parents and neighbors' few remaining belongings.
The pine tree was also home to orphaned baby squirrels, which he kept alive with a rescue syringe. Before Katrina, the Richards had watched the antics of the momma squirrel, who would snatch pecans off Wallace's foot.
"What I miss most is sittin' on the front porch and watchin' the baby squirrels learn to jump in the trees.
"We lost everything but we still have our young'uns, and that's really what counts. They are good kids."
Wallace and Fern reared five children in the under-1,000-square-foot house they bought new in the late 1950s, four years after they married. M&L Road is near Back Bay and just a block off Racetrack Road. They got water in Camille but not enough to make them leave.
"We didn't make much but we got that house paid off and we never starved or asked for help," Fern said. "That was a nice, quiet little neighborhood of hard-working people. But you know, four people from there have died since Katrina." Wallace died in March, and Fern admits that makes it harder to adjust to her post-Katrina life, and decision-making she must do.
"I'll be honest. Right now I don't know what I want to do," she said. "I'd love to get me a small place on high ground."
- KAT BERGERON