St. Martin Neighbor Shares Story Of Loss, Recovery, Hope

"That's my daughter's baby pictures and my son's baby pictures. They're all ruined and mildewed," Dona Stephens said as she flipped through a muddy album.

The family photos that she salvaged from the flood waters are just too precious to throw away.

"Those memories are all I have. I don't have anything else," said Stephens.

It's a painful time for a lady who has already experienced so much sorrow.

"My husband died just two weeks before the storm of a recurrence of throat cancer," Stephens said. "I'm almost glad it happened before the storm, because this would have been a terrible blow to him. He was not as tough as I am."

That inner strength helped Stephens through the past six months, since Katrina flooded her home and wiped-out much of the Windsor Porte subdivision in St. Martin.

The sound of debris-removing equipment often breaks the silence in the neighborhood. Pilings, slabs and mailboxes serve as reminders that homes once stood around beautiful Fort Bayou.

"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood," Stephens joked as she looked around.

Stephens is trying to keep an upbeat attitude. She now has a FEMA trailer with an eye-catching blue-roof porch.

Stephens said, "We had to fashion this porte-a-chere as it were. It looks a bit ragged. It gives us a place to sit outside to get out of the, we call it our "can-dominium."

Stephens says she hasn't seen a lot of her neighbors in the area recently, so she's not sure about their future in the neighborhood. She says 'for sale' signs going up in front of a few homes are a good indication some of them won't be coming back.

"The ones I've connected with are just saying they just can't go through it again. They just don't have the heart to rebuild and have it all destroyed again."

Stephens also wanted to move away, but her children urged her to change her mind.

"We bought this house in '73 and all their childhood memories are tied up with this house. They really wanted me to restore it and that's what I'm going to do," Stephens said. "I'm hoping it doesn't happen again. If it does, I'll rebuild again, because this is my home."

Windsor Porte is located just off Highway 609 in Jackson County. The subdivision next to it, called Windsor Park, also had a lot of destruction. More than 70 homes there were either destroyed or damaged.