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A backyard wedding

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Samantha Bordages, born with partial arms and legs, is also a certified lifeguard, types 80 to 110 words a minute, using no special keyboard, and can help change a tire on the car when needed. She dreams of a backyard wedding at her new Habitat home.

Port Bienville, Miss.–Samantha Bordages, who was born with only partial arms and legs, is a lifelong believer in the power of thinking positively and maintaining a good sense of humor.

“The word ‘can’t’ was never in my vocabulary,” Bordages, 31, said.

She is a certified lifeguard, a champion dart thrower and a pretty mean pool player. She types 80 to 110 words a minute, using no special keyboard, and can even help change a tire on the car when needed.

“I have two sisters and one brother,” Bordages explained. “When they were cleaning the house, I had to clean the house. And when they were climbing trees, they made me climb trees – one was pushing while another one was pulling.”

Bordages and her boyfriend, John Kedney, hope to leave their small, very inaccessible FEMA trailer in Port Bienville soon for a new Habitat home in the Diamondhead community of Hancock County.

Before Katrina, Kedney had an apartment in Long Beach and Bordages lived in a specially-equipped trailer she was renting to own from her mom, who lived right next door.

“After the storm, my trailer was wrapped around two trees,” Bordages said. “I lost everything except the dishes that were in the dishwasher. We didn’t find the dishwasher, but we found every single dish. And we found my class ring.”

Kedney’s apartment suffered a similar fate.

“The only thing left was the slab and the pipe work,” he said. “We found the TV about a mile and a half away, but just the front part.”

Like many survivors of Katrina, Kedney and Bordages revel in the small miracles and gallows humor often found amid tragedy.

They rode out the storm in Bordages’ grandmother’s house, one of the highest properties in town. But her home ultimately took on about 50 inches of water, forcing all the women into the unfinished attic as Kedney and Bordages’ fathers kept themselves afloat.

“It was crazy,” Bordages said. “Furniture was flying everywhere. We had a huge piano and the strings started popping. That piano was so big, it had taken five men to put it in my grandma’s house. But it just took five seconds to get it out.”

Within an hour, the water had receded and the young couple had started plotting their future.

“You have to be a go-getter and do what you gotta do,” said Bordages. “You can’t sit in a tent and wait for people to help you.”

Kedney works for a steel manufacturer at the port of Bay St. Louis. He recently underwent surgery for a shoulder injury he suffered when a 900-pound piece of steel hit him, so he’s temporarily unable to do any physical labor toward the couple’s sweat equity.

Bordages answers phones regularly in Habitat’s Hancock County affiliate. She’s taking accounting classes at a community college and, in her spare time, dreams of a backyard wedding at their new home.

“We are so thankful,” said Bordages. “Rent is so high … and everything’s becoming so commercial. This is the best thing. To own land and to build a new house is just the greatest thing. The greatest thing.”