New Life In Destroyed Old St. Martin Neighborhood

Laura Simmons has a funny name for her trailer.

"I call it cracker box, because it's long and narrow," Simmons said.

The small FEMA trailer now replaces the house Simmons and her late husband built in 1955. She proudly pointed to her trees and said, "I have the naval orange, the lime, and the lemon."

The citrus trees remind Simmons of her old yard that once thrived in a lively neighborhood.

"I miss my neighbors. I'm used to having them here and everything being gone. It's like being in some area you haven't lived in," said the 71-year-old resident.

Her Old St. Martin neighborhood behind Lemoyne Boulevard looks deserted now. It's dotted only by a few trailers and tents. And the claw is scraping away debris, left behind after Katrina shoved 15 feet of water from April Bayou over the homes.

"I just laugh about it to kind of get over it, and ease the pain on it," said Simmons.

"It's almost like living in a trash pile," described Simmons' son, James. His home on Omaha Street also collapsed in the storm.

"I tell everybody, 'I'm OK with it. I lost the house. But it just keeps me from having to remodel it,'" he joked.

Laura Simmons knows her neighborhood will never look the same again. And two of her neighbors won't be coming back. As for Simmons, she's already getting the ball rolling to build herself a brand, new house.

"I'm getting it filled back in, and that's where I'm going to build it up," Simmons said as she pointed to her property. "I've been looking for plans, and I have the guy to come out and do the elevations."

Simmons believes that like her plants, her neighborhood will grow again.

"It's home," Simmons said.

"That's right, it's home," her son chimed in. "I'm terribly sorry. Ain't nobody running me off of home. This is where I grew up. This is our neighborhood, and I'm not going to let this stop me."

Laura Simmons says her house was the second one built in that neighborhood 50 years ago. Katrina flooded her home with about 15 feet of water. During Hurricane Camille, she had six feet of water.