Sunday, May 21, 2006

"I like to focus on how much I saved"

Stacey Hayden: "I had to laugh."

"Come on in," says Stacey Hayden, as she searches for the keys to the back door of the light blue stucco she used to call home.

Like most New Orleans residents who fled Hurricane Katrina last August, Stacey and her family thought they were evacuating for a few days. When the Haydens finally came back in December, they found most of what they owned had been destroyed when water from the 17th Street Canal breach flooded their Lakeview neighborhood.

"We lost our home, we lost our business, we lost our church, we lost our school, you’ve heard the story," says Stacey, who shared the modest two-story with her son, Robert, a mop-topped first-grader, and husband Rusty.

Gingerly walking over warped floors and stepping around overturned furniture and broken mementos, she points to a few sheets of Monopoly money about six feet up on the living room wall. The floodwaters that settled in the house for several weeks carried it up and left it there.
"When I first came in and saw it, I had to laugh," says Stacey, a St. Paul’s Vestry member.
But they barely had time to assess the hurricane and flood damage before the house was struck by a tornado in February that blew portions of their neighbor’s roof into their bathroom and Robert’s bedroom. Then, in early April, looters came, rifled through plastic bags of clothes she was trying to save, and walked out with a small window air conditioner that had somehow managed to escape the damage.

The Hayden home on Canal Blvd. bears familiar Katrina marks

Rusty only recently was able to re-open the family’s lumber business. Robert is back in school at St. Paul’s temporary location. Stacey helps Rusty with the business, sometimes takes care of other parishioners’ children, and continues to try to salvage what she can from the home while they rent a place in nearby Metairie.

Stacey shrugs as she shares their story. Tears have been replaced with humor and determination to rebuild not only her home, which will be bulldozed by Rusty, but St. Paul’s church and school and her neighborhood.

"I saved a lot of kitchen stuff – I like to focus on how much I saved."


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