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We basically started our life all over again

 

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Jason Honore (center right) and his wife Krystle (right) lost everything but a few days’ worth of clothes when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward.

   

Jason Honore and his wife, Krystle, lost everything but a few days’ worth of clothes and some jewelry when Hurricane Katrina destroyed their home in New Orleans’ 9th Ward.

The hardest part of the months and years that followed was sending their daughter, Dominiece, then only 5, to live with her grandmother in Baton Rouge so she could attend school regularly.

Five years later, the whole family—which includes little brothers Jason, 8, and Jalen, 4— lives happily under one roof in Slidell, Louisiana.

“It was eventually part of my plan to own a house,” Honore said. “But it wouldn’t have happened this soon without Habitat.”

Just before Katrina struck, the Honores evacuated to Mississippi and then spent the next year moving from hotel to apartment back to hotel. Eventually, they wanted to get back to Louisiana, where their extended families live.

“This neighborhood is peaceful and quiet,” Honore said. “Everybody’s friendly.”

Honore, 28, drives a shuttle bus for a living, while Krystle works in a phlebotomy lab. She was a cashier before, Honore said proudly, but she went to school to learn a skill.

The family’s year in exile was hardest on the children, Honore said.

“My oldest son hadn’t started school yet, but we were trying to keep my daughter’s education on track,” he said. “So we had to send her to her mother’s parents to go to school in Baton Rouge. We were separated as a family for a while.”

His voice gets quieter when he talks about that difficult time. He would much rather talk about today.

“Now they’re all doing fine,” he said. “The house we were staying in before, it was kind of a bad neighborhood. They weren’t able to ride their bikes or nothing, like they are now. They can go down to the park if they want to, or just sit outside on the porch. It’s a better environment for them.

“We basically started our life all over again,” he said.

Honore earned much of his required sweat equity working on his own house, doing some of the framing and some of the painting touch-up.

“You have to keep your mind open to learn more,” he said. “It was nice learning how to do those things and also going through the experience of helping to build your own future.”

The lessons aren’t lost on Dominiece, now 10, who listens intently as her father tells their family’s survival story. When asked if she wants to own a house of her own someday, Dominiece ponders it for a few seconds before gesturing over her shoulder to her parents’ house.

“I might just keep that one,” she said, smiling.