In Jamaica, Homeowner Copes With Loss Of Her Home

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(Host) More than 300 houses were destroyed in Vermont by Tropical Storm Irene. The trauma of losing a home creates financial, logistical and emotional chaos for the families involved. VPR’s Patti Daniels has the story of one of those homeowners in Jamaica.

(Hardy) "That’s where my kitchen was. This is where my dining room was, right? That was my living room."

(Daniels) Karin Hardy stands amid rocks and silt as bulldozers work nearby. Heavy machinery and dump trucks provide a new soundtrack on this once-quiet riverbank in Jamaica. Hardy’s house was one of seven that were lost here. She surveys where her home stood just a week ago.

(Hardy) "My house was built in 1852. It needed a lot of work, I completely renovated the old house with the help of my boys. We totally redid it, and it really was a great house."

(Daniels) Hardy lived there six years. She left home on the morning of the storm because she thought the river might swamp the bridge to her neighborhood, and leave her stranded. She didn’t think the house itself was in danger. Karin Hardy can’t quite describe the emotional loss of her home. But the financial impact is clear.

(Hardy) "It’s difficult because I think, it would be hard enough to suffer this loss if you were fully insured and had the ability to rebuild. We were not in a flood plain. And to find out that FEMA is offering $30,000 to rebuild is less than adequate, certainly."

(Daniels) The town assessed Hardy’s house at $209,000. Now she says, she has a mortgage on something that doesn’t exist: the house and the land it sat on were washed away. Work crews have built a temporary road where her home once stood. All that’s left are a butterfly bush and the green paccasandra leaves, peeking out from a wash of silt.

Hardy has a place to stay, but she isn’t sure what else is next. For now, her three sons and their friends walk the riverbanks, looking for mementos that may have survived. Her oldest son has discovered a few treasures.

(Hardy) "Amazing how many photos have come up. My first thought of loss was all the baby pictures, so that’s fantastic. He found my passport, imagine that. Found a small mirror my mother had given me, on an island, that wasn’t broken."

(Daniels) She takes a deep breath and nods appreciatively when she talks about how the town has rallied around her. A neighbor is standing by her side and notices Karin isn’t wearing jewelry like she usually does. The friend takes off her own necklace and clasps it around Karin’s neck.

For VPR News, I’m Patti Daniels.

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