Together with Family

Johnny has yet to receive recovery grant money from the government, and he won't be getting any money from insurance—he didn't have any. Roof repairs completed two months before the hurricane cost more than expected, so Johnny made what in hindsight was a devastating decision: He paid the overage with the $880 he set aside to cover his homeowner's insurance, letting the policy lapse.

What Johnny does have is family. "I'd be lost without my boys," he says of sons Chip, 41, Troy, 40, and Nigel, 36. When the three brothers aren't battling blazes as members of the New Orleans Fire Department, they are working alongside their dad.

Though their own houses were also badly damaged, the brothers' priority now is to get their dad's place in order so their mom can move back from Baton Rouge. She's been living and working there as a home health nurse since evacuating from New Orleans with other family members to escape Katrina. Johnny stayed behind with his sons, who spent the days after the levees broke piloting their own fishing boat around the city, pulling survivors out of windows and plucking them off ooftops. Fire trucks were useless in the flood.

"I miss my mom. We all miss her," Troy says. "It used to be that at the end of each day, I'd come here for dinner. I always knew when Mom was cooking." Now, Troy and his brothers have to drive 75 miles to see Venus and to taste the Creole stuffed peppers and white beans with shrimp that reflect the Moore family's mixed African, French, and Spanish heritage.

The cluster of postwar subdivisions that form the Gentilly area where Johnny and Venus have lived for the last 30 years was inundated with water for weeks after the nearby 17th Street Canal was breached. Among the city's most racially and economically diverse areas, Gentilly ranks as one of the hardest hit, with only about 5,000 of its 16,000 houses occupied and more than 2,500 FEMA trailers still dotting the landscape. One of those trailers is parked outside the Moore house. At first Johnny slept there only when he had to. But after shuttling from his job to family members' houses—where he preferred to spend the night—to his own house—in—progress proved too burdensome, he moved into the trailer full—time.
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