A Personal Story:
Losing Homes & History
By Dex Duet, Features editor
Dollie Duet, a native of Golden Meadow, Louisiana, lost most of her belongings during Hurricane Ida. Her home, her vehicle, and her sense of peace, all washed away with Ida’s devastating fury. She is currently staying between friends’ and family’s houses waiting for assistance. It’s been two months since she’s had her own place. With the uncertainty of insurance and the effectiveness of FEMA, she is unsure of what that next step will be. It’s hard for her, for the people that are helping her, and for her family.
Dollie’s story is like so many throughout the Bayou Region. Almost everyone lost something or knows someone who lost something. And so many lost everything. But unlike the countless others, this one is personal.
My name is Dex Duet. I am the features editor for this semester’s edition of Garde Voir Ci and the son of Dollie Duet. When I signed up for this position, I wasn’t aware that the focus of our stories would be our stories. It went from research on lost communities to the conditions and status of the place you grew up in and the people you love. I was eager to take on this story, but sitting at a table with my mother and watching her cry was jarring. Unfortunately, this was the first time that she had a quiet moment to sit and think about what happened. There are so many people without a voice and not just because no one will talk to them. It is hard for the words to come out when the recovery isn’t done. So, here I sit with my strong-willed mother, letting her tell her story.
Dollie has lived her whole life in Lafourche parish. She is the only girl in a family of four boys, so being tough is something she learned at a young age. Growing up, Dollie was fascinated by her own culture. Culinary skills are what drive the people in South Louisiana and she has those skills. The Cajun-French culture even has its own French dialect, which Dollie speaks fluently. Her love of the culture and cooking landed her in Nicholls State University’s culinary arts program. She spent two years there, but being a single mom and pursuing a full-time culinary career eventually became too much and she dropped out to focus on her family. Dollie then bought a nice home in Golden Meadow and began living the quiet life she always wanted. Years passed and at the age of 61, she decided to go back to college to get her degree in business. She finished in May of 2021, three months before her world was turned upside down.
On August 28, 2021, my mother and I ran from Hurricane Ida by hopping in a car and heading to western Louisiana. We stayed in a little camp that a family friend owns. All six of us were huddled up, waiting to hear any news about our homes and loved ones. Half of my loved ones stayed behind, which is common with my family. They aren’t afraid of much, but this scared them. We kept in touch with them until the storm hit, but then there were two days of ominous silence. No one knew if our homes were still standing or if our loved ones were safe.
“While we were sitting there away from the storm, we had relatives that we were keeping in touch with down the bayou,” Dollie says. “The whole time we were communicating we were talking on the phone. She was taking pictures of what was going on. Then all of a sudden I hear her say, ‘oh my god the house is rockin’ now.’ Then communication shut off. We didn’t know if they were still alive or what had happened. Trying to get in touch with anyone at that point was near impossible. All we wanted to do was get back, but we didn’t know what we were going to find.”
“Then all of a sudden I hear her say, ‘Oh my god the house is rockin’ now.’ Then communication shut off.”
– Dollie Duet
After what felt like ages, one of our cousins called saying everything was okay and our house was still intact. I’m not sure if the house just looked okay from the outside or if she was trying to spare our feelings, but the house was not okay. Our home, the place I grew up in, the place where my mother and I made so many memories, was gone.
My mom loved that house. The house was 110 years old with another house attached to the side. That building looked twice the age of the main one. My mom spent years trying to figure out what the building was or how old it was, but many didn’t know. While having a conversation with a historian from South Louisiana one day, he revealed the unknown facts about the building. This building was the first place in Golden Meadow that sold bus tickets. There was even a popular rumor that the building floated there from a previous hurricane.
“One day a gentleman by the name of Lany Boudreaux (long-time area resident and bayou history buff) said, ‘I know how old that house is. The store part of that house floated there from the Caminada hurricane in 1911. They added to it then built the house connected to the store. The store was a grocery store and later they made an ice cream parlor with it.’” Dollie continues, “The little window where you can buy the bus tickets is still there. I kept it there until the storm took it.”
When my mom moved in, she completely remodeled it with her own two hands and no help. One of her favorite things to say to the men in her family was, “I redid that house from the ground up and none of y’all put a single nail in it.”
Now standing here years later watching the pile of rubble that Ida left behind, Dollie is at a loss. When I asked her what the hardest part about coming home after Ida was, she broke down immediately. I have been going through this with her for the past two months, and I have not seen her shed a single tear. My mom started one line before taking a small break to come back and interview.
“A house is always easy to replace. History, you can never replace and there was so much history lost from this storm.”
My mom is currently staying at my sister’s house. After two months of being without a home, she was contacted by FEMA to receive a temporary mobile home. She is uncertain about her next step in life and feels like she hasn’t had the opportunity to process things since the storm.
She says “When people ask me what I’m going to do after I always say, ‘you know what I don’t know.’ The recovery is slow and the devastation is ongoing.”