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Rebuilding homes, rebuilding lives

Terrytown residents appraise the damage done

By Manav Tanneeru and Jennifer Pangyanszki

Terrytown resident Carla Marris returned to her home Sunday and intends to stay.


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New Orleans (Louisiana)
Hurricane Katrina

TERRYTOWN, Louisiana (CNN) -- Allen Guthrie could scarcely believe his eyes when he saw his son's modest three-bedroom home in Jefferson Parish that was torn apart by Hurricane Katrina.

"Where do you even start?" said his 35-year-old son, Allen, as he stared at his nearly roofless home, lumber and debris strewn across the yard.

The Guthrie family has lived in Terrytown, which is on the west bank of the Mississippi River just four miles from New Orleans, for more than 30 years.

Most of the family evacuated north to stay with relatives in Baton Rouge and others went to Shreveport.

Tuesday morning was the father's first time back since the storm struck to see the home's condition. His son, a volunteer fireman at the neighborhood's fire department, had already surveyed their homes.

The damage in the neighborhood was caused chiefly by Katrina's winds and rain. Uprooted trees line the streets and fallen fences surround the one-story homes, some with shredded patios or roofs blown off.

The other Guthrie family members were spared the ferocity of the storm.

The elder Guthrie's home sustained damage to the roof of a bedroom, and his other son's home had a few shingles torn off the roof and some fences damaged.

Generations live blocks apart in the neighborhood, where friendships seem to stretch back to childhood and conversations invariably include stories full of memories and private humor.

"We played here together, we've lived here together, and now we're going to rebuild together," the younger Allen Guthrie said.

Gary Boudreaux, Guthrie's neighbor and a longtime friend, visited his home for the first time Tuesday along with his wife, Bonny. He has lived on the street for 44 years.

Boudreaux, 48, left about noon on August 27 with his wife and two daughters, packed for just two or three days away. The family has since been living out of their van.

"People want to give us stuff, but we've got nowhere to put it," he said.

The Boudreaux home sustained minimal damage, and the family has already begun preparing for its repair.

"We're definitely rebuilding; there's no doubt," Boudreaux said. "This is a good community. ... Everyone here is coming back."

The two daughters, ages 10 and 14, have enrolled in school in Lafayette. One has joined the swim team, and Bonny Boudreaux packed up swimsuits and workout bags.

But she decided the photo albums would have to be stored in plastic food containers while they stayed with family and friends from Raceland to Morgan City.

Gary Boudreaux works for Chevron but has not been instructed to go back to work. He plans to buy a house in Lafayette because he said his girls' new school district is a good one.

"I'll be a multiple property owner," he said, grinning. "I'm trying to find the silver lining."

Next door, Carla Marris, who has lived in her Terrytown home for 12 years, returned to her house Sunday, a day earlier than authorities allowed, and said she was not leaving again.

Marris, 51 "going on 101," grew emotional as she spoke of her parents, both in their 80s, who recently had to purchase a trailer in Prairieville while they waited to find out about their house in Port Sulphur, south of New Orleans.

"Yesterday my dad wanted to go check the mail," she said, wiping away tears. "There ain't nothing to go check. You don't know what you take for granted until it's gone."

The residents said their gloom was buoyed by a desire to move on and rebuild.

"It's close-knit. It's families, it's working class people. There's a lot of people that just struggle to survive," said Marty Martin, 42, chief of the 5th District Terrytown Fire Department.

Marris hopes to help those who have less then her, insistent that she and her community will survive.

The younger Guthrie, who navigates cargo ships on the Mississippi River, said he couldn't really imagine leaving.

"This is what insurance is for, and I'm going to get a camper, put it in the driveway and stay there 'til it's done," he said.

Alluding to storms of years past and other cities in Katrina's path, he said, "Biloxi never shut down. Gulfport never shut down. Pensacola never shut down. They started right back, and we will, too."

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