Families put down new roots in the Miss-Lou

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 24, 2008

It’s the American dream — staking a claim, putting down roots.

Once those roots are set and the life plans are made the course might not waiver.

But sometimes change is simply inevitable, sometimes by choice, sometimes by chance.

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Many re-root in Natchez.

By chance

Coleen Fury had her life planned.

She had her husband, her kids, her business, her home.

After Katrina it’s just her and the kids.

Fury, like thousands of others, lost everything she ever had in Katrina.

Fury and her family moved to Natchez the night before Katrina blew ashore.

The place they once called home, Meraux, is now the recovering shell of a former city.

Meraux, in St. Bernard Parish, is located south of New Orleans.

If New Orleans is the face of what happened during Katrina, St. Bernard is the heart.

People from St. Bernard were always a little more hearty, a little more full of life.

And now some of those from St. Bernard live in Natchez.

“I would have packed more stuff if I knew we would never see (home) again,” Fury said.

The night before Katrina, Fury and her family, decided at the last minute to leave town.

Knowing most hotels out of town would be booked-up they decided to stay with relatives who were coincidently staying in Natchez.

Once Fury and her family arrived they spent the next two-weeks in a hotel with 14 family members.

“That was a pretty rough time,” she said. “We really didn’t know what was going on.”

Fury like so many others who were impacted by Katrina said the feeling of uncertainty about the future and the trauma of being up-rooted from the past can be overwhelming.

“We never got to say goodbye to any of our old friends,” she said.

Since leaving Meraux two years ago Fury said she and her children have only returned once.

“There’s nothing there for us,” she said.

So Fury re-rooted and re-rooted fast.

Within two weeks of moving to Natchez, Fury had her children enrolled in school; she bought a house soon after.

Fury said her family thought she was crazy for buying a house so soon after moving to Natchez.

After the move Fury and her husband of 13 years divorced.

“We like it here,” she said. “We know just about everyone.”

For the foreseeable future Fury said she plans to stay in Natchez, because both of her children love school.

However Fury’s uncertainty about the future is evident in the way she talks and the way she lives.

“Everything was planned before,” she said.

Now, Fury said, she is somewhat reluctant to make very long-term plans for the future.

“I can’t even commit to a sofa,” she said.

It’s true, Fury’s living room is nearly completely unfurnished.

“Now we just have the bare necessities,” she said. “Now we just buy things as we need them.”

By choice

But not all those re-rooting in Natchez came under such duress.

In fact some have come to escape the troubles.

Chris and Marina Cavette moved from Malibu, Calif., only a few months ago to seek a peaceful refuge in Natchez

“(California) is like so many rats in a cage,” Marina said. “It’s so overcrowded and so expensive.”

Three-years ago on a trip to New Orleans the Cavettes made a side trip to Natchez.

“I thought ‘I could live here,” Chris said.

So the Cavettes decided to make the move.

They bought a home online and rented shop space downtown.

Marina said one of the biggest perks about leaving Malibu for Natchez is the cost of living.

The rent for their storefront in Natchez is less than one-tenth what it was in Malibu.

“It’s fabulous,” Marina said.

But the Cavettes also came to Mississippi to escape more than a money-driven life.

“We just wanted to slow down,” Marina said. “We were spending hours a week in the car just getting from one place to the next.”

Now Marina only fills the car with gas about once every two weeks.

So far the Cavettes have adjusted well to their new slower pace life and the friendliness of the community.

“People actually tell each other hello on the street,” Marina said. “It’s just amazing.”

They said one instance really solidified the Natchez experience for them.

“We were downtown shopping for antiques,” Chris said. “And the shop owner actually closed down his store and took us to his house for an hour and a half to show us more stuff.”

“We were in shock,” Marina said. “In California we would never do that, no one would close down their store.”

The Cavettes said they love one element about Natchez in particular.

They love the weather — particularly the heat.

Chris and Marina both said they actually like the humidity.

Temperatures in Malibu only change about 10 degrees year round.

“We love it,” Chris said. “The rain, the heat, the thunderstorms we love it all.”