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|Losses can be more emotional than material|
Lettie Hardin could almost serve as an 81-year-old poster child.
Rousted from sleep as floodwaters encroached in her bedroom and boated to safety, she is now back in her homeóbut things are not the same, nor will they ever be the same.
"Mrs. Lettie," could be the emblem for other parish residents who are now recovering from the effects of Hurricane Gustav. Not all suffered the same damages, although there are similarities. Not all deal with the stress of disaster the same, although there are similarities, but there are no similarities in the intensity of individual, personal losses.
"This is the worst thing that's ever happened to me," recalled the bespectacled lady who will be 82 on the last day of this year. When probed, she offered the experience of an apartment fire in Chicago, years ago, as the worst personal experience in her life before the hurricane weather blew into her home at 183 Canal Lane in Winnsboro.
"We were on the second floor and I had to be handing my children out the window," Lettie said of the Chicago fire. It took the water in Winnsboro to displace the memory of fire in Chicago, the city that fire made famous.
"I don't believe I've seen as much water in my life," Lettie said of her rescue, "except when I went to look at Lake Michigan," when she lived in Chicago.
Lettie and her husband, Henry, lived in the famous Illinois city for 30 years until 1981, when they moved back to Winnsboro and built a home near a small drainage ditch.
The parents of seven sons and a daughter, they envisioned a quieter lifestyleóand they found it.
Henry died a few years ago, but plaques attesting to the gratitude of Baptist churches for his and Lettie's leadership contributions still hang on the water-ravaged walls of their Winnsboro home. The plaques were not lost, but other precious items can never be replaced.
"There were books, pictures, newspaper clippings. I don't know what all," she said as she tried to summarize the losses.
Not lost, though slightly damaged, were many of her granddaughter's Barbie doll collection, in original boxes, enough to make either an Ebay seller or an antique store owner envious. Lost were the expensive textbooks the granddaughter used to get a B. S. degree in Agriculture from Louisiana State University.
Piled near the driveway leading to her home are discarded furniture, mattresses and other bedding items, watermarked upholstered pieces and fractured chests of drawers.
Flooring, ceiling tiles, carpet and other ruined home furnishing can be seen outside other flooded houses in the parish.
Pointing to a five-drawer chest with a side missing, she said, "This sat in water so long that it fell apart when they tried to pick it up."
Lettie was one of the more fortunate of those who had to evacuate their homes. She was able to stay locally with relatives for the two weeks or more that was needed to drain water from her home. Relatives are now helping with the cleanup.
Although she has filed for disaster assistance with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as have many parish residents, she is wary of what is to come.
She has been told she will have to wait until FEMA knows what her home insurer will do before the agency determines how much assistance she can receive. The home insurance adjuster has made a visit but said Lettie would have to wait up to two weeks for his report.
"The biggest problem is going to be getting the money needed to fix this house again," she said.
Of others in the community, Lettie offers, "There are lots of folks who have been real nice in offering to help, but many of them have losses of their own and have their own problems."
"My neighbor next door had just finished remodeling his whole house," she said.
That neighbor, L. B. Heard, recently moved into his family home at 173 Canal Lane. The canal, really a wide ditch, is between the Hardin and Heard homes.
Huge couches with the price tags still attached sit near the carport. "They're that new," he said.
Freshly ripped up wood flooring is piled near the couches between antique automobiles which dot the driveway to the home.
"I lost almost everything but an iron bed," Heard said as he offered a tour of the home's inside.
Like his neighbor, Mrs. Lettie, Heard had retired to the area. Originally from Winnsboro, he retired after 46 years in Los Angeles and planned to restore rundown automobiles while in retirement. He now has to shift plans and concentrate on replacing his losses.
A hurricane with a storm eye hundreds of miles away simply winked away lifetimes of fulfilled hopes and dreams but could not break human resolve.
"My job is to take life each day as I find it," Lettie reminds us.