Ironton stands strongSep 25th, 2012 | By Jessica Gonzalez | Category: top story
Kalope Battle, 20, remembering his own high school days playing football, will try to salvage a weight bench for his cousin, Dreione Williams, the quarterback of Belle Chasse High’s JV team.
Just past Alliance Refinery, nestled against the Mississippi River levee lies the 140-year-old community of Ironton, battered but not completely broken from Hurricane Isaac.
Ironton to West Pointe-a-la-Hache was completely inundated by storm surge as Isaac made its way inland. The back levees at Barataria Bay were overtopped on August 29 and the 10 foot storm surge came rushing in from the cow pastures, flooding all in its wake. Once the storm was over, the water sat at around 6 feet until the intentional levee breaks finally could drain the water out.
Now the historic town of 51 homes, once shrouded in lush greenery, is set against a backdrop of saltwater scorched trees, piles of dead marsh grass and debris. The
homes that line the narrow streets appear to be empty, but after a closer look inside of a broken window or busted front door, movement can be seen—many decided to come
back and start cleaning up as soon as the water receded and have been feverishly working ever since.
“About eight guys I know qualified for the FEMA hotels, and they ended up coming back and all staying in one trailer because they just wanted to be home,” said Ironton
resident Ceneda Trufant.
Trufant, who grew up in Pointe-a-la-Hache, moved to Ironton after Hurricane Katrina with her two children. Her mother died shortly after the storm and the stresses of Post-Katrina living began to take a toll on her and her children. She says that moving to Ironton was the best decision she could have possibly made in an incredibly stressful time in her life.
“It’s simple, country living out here, the best thing I could have done for my children was move to Ironton,” explained Trufant as she sat on top of her newly purchased
dryer, now ruined by floodwater, and gazed at her gutted home.
Trufant’s Ironton roots go back three generations on her father’s side, so allegiance to
the town is in her blood, she says.
“We used to come out as kids and I hated it, it was so boring. But now I appreciate
it; I’m surrounded by family so I save on babysitting costs, everyone knows everyone so you don’t lock your doors, and I don’t have to worry about schools—Belle Chasse
is a five-star school.”
She says that what she enjoys most about Ironton is that you never have to ask for
help—it’s always there, especially in times of disaster. Her cousin, Kalope Battle
has been helping with the clean-up of her modular home and believes that mostly
everyone will return and rebuild.
“People got down here as soon as they could to clean up,” said Battle. “They own
property down here, and for some its been in their family for a long time. It’s just really tight-knit— on the weekends people have barbecues, and children are out playing in the street. People don’t want to give that up.”
Trufant and Battle say they are incredibly grateful for the outside help that has descended on the community. Two weeks ago, Trufant hired someone to help her move all the furniture out of her home and clean-up but could only work for a week.
After they left, she was worried about hiring another contractor to help— especially
with many price-gouging their services in light of the disaster. But soon after, a group of Amish Mennonite men from Christian Aid Ministries, came to her door and
offered their services free of charge.
The faith-based group was busy gutting homes in the community for the past few
weeks. Trufant says she tried offering money to the men for their service, but they politely declined and encouraged her to instead donate to Christian Aid Ministries.
“We believe that our service to our fellow man is service to God,” explained Mennonite
volunteer Paul Yoder, of Savannah, TN, as he took a break from removing insulation
from the inside of Trufant’s home.
St. Paul’s Missionary Baptist Church has been a pillar of the community for 134 years and is currently a stopping point where residents can gather supplies for cleaning their homes.
Shipments of brooms, mops, buckets, masks, and more have been arriving at the church, many are donations from churches several states away.
The caretaker of St. Paul’s, James Compton says that crews had the inside of the church cleaned out in four days, but the building still does not have power.
Causalities of the storm include two of the church’s antique organs.
“They’ve been here as long as the church has been here,” Compton said. He’s not sure when the church will be ready for service but is confident that it will be a full-house when the doors are finally open again.
For Trufant, Battle, Compton and many other Ironton residents, this storm is another
setback but nothing that they can’t handle.
As she pulled out a small oil painting from a pile of debris— a portrait made by
her daughter as a Mother’s Day gift— Trufant summed up the mindsets of many returning Ironton residents.
“We’d rather keep losing everything and keep starting over, than leave.”