St. Bernard natives left without knowledge of their next move

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2005

VIDALIA &045; Evacuees from St. Bernard Parish have gotten some straight answers, but it wasn’t what they wanted to hear.

Their south Louisiana parish is under complete lockdown, and they won’t be going back until at least sometime next summer.

&uot;They told us that memories are all we have left of St. Bernard,&uot; resident Leroy Alfonso said. &uot;The St. Bernard we knew is gone and whatever is built there will look different.&uot;

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Alfonso and his wife Jeannette, now staying in Concordia Parish, were two of several thousand St. Bernard residents to attend a meeting at the state capitol in Baton Rouge Monday.

The residents were told the parish wouldn’t be inhabitable during cleanup that must take place to remove oil, pollutants and human and animal remains.

&uot;They told us some areas with oil spills would not be inhabited again,&uot; Leroy said. &uot;In our subdivision, they’re saying the structures won’t be inhabitable again.&uot;

The last of the high waters were pumped out earlier this week, but authorities aren’t letting the people back in.

For the Alfonsos the hardest part of evacuating has been not knowing what will happen next.

&uot;We don’t know,&uot; Jeannette Alfonso said. &uot;If they tell you you can’t live there anymore, then what? We looked at living here, but we can’t do anything until we find out what FEMA and our insurance is going to do.&uot;

After staying briefly in the Concordia Parish Community Center evacuee shelter, the couple and their friends Gary and Karen Hanson were taken in by Vicki and Bill Torrey.

In two previous floods, their insurance company forced them to rebuild on the spot where their house had been destroyed.

Jeannette in particular doesn’t have much desire to build there again, and she isn’t alone.

&uot;I don’t want to build in the parish again. I would say 60 percent of the people aren’t going back,&uot; Leroy said.

&uot;Take my family &045; I have two brothers, his brother, a son and daughter, our house and my mother and only my daughter is going back,&uot; Jeannette said.

But until they know something, the Alfonsos don’t know what to do, and the lack of information is starting to anger them.

&uot;We still haven’t heard anything from FEMA or our insurance. We don’t know if they’re going to give us a trailer,&uot; Jeannette said. &uot;We can’t afford to just buy a house, but we don’t want to live in a shelter for a year and we can’t stay (with the Torreys) for a year.&uot;

St. Bernard residents will be allowed back in for a brief visit sometime in the coming weeks, the Alfonsos said.