WAVELAND, Miss. -- Terri Johnson loves her city. A third-generation Wavelander, she works in the sheriff’s department while she and her husband raise two teenage boys.
Terri Johnson stands in the ruins of her Waveland home after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Click 'Play' below the image to hear Terri talk about her dream home and to see where she hopes it will be built.
She says she wouldn’t live anywhere else, even after Katrina pummeled her family home, flood waters wrenching the seven-bedroom dwelling 10 feet from its base, wiping out memories and her life’s possessions.
“I was just born here, and I just love Waveland,” Johnson, 41, says with a laugh, appreciating the irony as she stands where her front door once opened onto Tippen Street.
Her dad rebuilt the home after Hurricane Camille, when she and her 11 siblings lived in a trailer for nearly six months.
She and husband Delroy, along with Destin, 16, and Dimitri, 13, lived there for seven years; now, the sodden shell awaits demolition.
That, in itself, is not that unusual in Waveland where Katrina cut a broad swath of destruction, especially near the Gulf, and where habitable homes are about as rare as unburdened insurance adjusters.
What’s tragic about Johnson’s story is that she was just about to live her dream: this month, in fact, the family had hoped to move into their new home on Waveland Avenue, five minutes away from Tippen Street.
So close to her dream
“It was a beautiful home, 2,400 square feet, with a two-car garage, three bedrooms, two baths, a living room, a den, a big kitchen and a fireplace,” Johnson recalled as we toured the site on Wednesday.
The house was never built; the builder dumped dirt for the foundation Friday before Katrina struck; the construction was due to begin the following Monday.
Now Johnson is stuck in limbo, party to one of the myriad intractable human dramas that followed the hurricane.
Her builder, according to Johnson, won’t build the house, even though the paperwork has been signed, sealed and delivered to the bank, which is financing the $160,000 purchase.
“I called him after Katrina, and he said it was going to cost $185,000, $190,000 because of the storm,” Johnson said, outrage in her voice.
The explanation, about rising costs of material and labor, didn’t wash with Johnson.
“But when you sign a contract, aren’t you supposed to stick to it? He said he would have to pay the workers more money. That’s not my fault. We did sign the contract.”
Enter Aaron Parker of Aaron Parker Enterprises, the man who sold the quarter acre of land and agreed the build the Johnson’s home.
“I’m not trying to make money out of that lady,” Parker said by telephone, unhappy that anyone would accuse him of gouging customers.
He agrees a contract was signed, and said he would “probably” build the house for the original price – but not now.
Parker explained that even if he could, the City of Waveland is not granting any permits for new home construction.
Moreover, it’s a money-losing proposition right now. “Before Katrina, [workers] were making $12-$13 an hour; now they are making $20-$25. All my best electricians and plumbers are working for FEMA.”
The inflationary market has raised salaries and material. “The price of everything is up,” Parker complained.
He added, “As long as costs come down, I’ll do it [in the spring].”
This was small comfort to Johnson when we called her back late Wednesday. “I wish he would call me and tell me that; he knows my number and he won’t call me back,” she said, with a note of resignation. “We need a home right now.”
The family recently returned from Westpoint, Miss., – a refuge for two months – so that the kids can start school Monday, and she can return to work as a medical corrections officer with Bay St. Louis sheriff’s department.
Their home, for now, is a too-small FEMA trailer in another part of town.
Their dreams, well, they’ve been postponed.
“I still have hope,” Johnson said earlier when we spoke at where her new home should be standing.
“I think I’m cried out, I’m tired of crying. The guy hurt me so bad; this was our dream … and we’re still going to get it done.”
Trackbacks are links to weblogs that reference this post. Like comments, trackbacks do no appear until approved by us. The trackback URL for this post is: http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d83451b0aa69e200d834680e3c53ef