2008: ‘A sense of normalcy’ on the Gulf Coast

After their rental house and virtually all of their belongings were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, the Talamo family lived with relatives in Tennessee and Texas and then back home in Slidell, Louisiana, in a FEMA trailer. Throughout the ordeal, the children almost forgot what it felt like to live in one place, surrounded by friends and well-loved toys.

Construction on the Talamos’ house began during the 2008 Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project, which included builds all along the still-recovering U.S. Gulf Coast. Jessica, Anthony, Nick, Margo and Sonni-Anne moved in to their new home in January 2009.

Now, four years after settling in, this three-bedroom house is bustling with all the noise and barely controlled chaos of everyday life.

“It’s been a long road,” Jessica says, balancing her youngest son, Anthony Jr., on her hip as she watches daughter Sonni-Anne and her best friend from next door race down the hall. “Looking back, it seems kind of surreal what we went through. This house let us get back to a sense of normalcy, and that means everything.

“Now, even though it gets a little crazy sometimes, I want them to enjoy every second of being a kid. Every second.

“We love living here,” she says, looking out the storm door as Nick throws a baseball with a neighbor boy. “Nick and Margo still remember what it was like not to have a real home. I hope none of us ever have to go through that again. I hope nobody does.”