Family coping with loss of father from Ida

Published: Sep. 4, 2021 at 8:55 PM EDT
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(CNN) - Recovering from the aftermath of a major hurricane is hard enough. Figuring out how to recover from a broken heart at the same time is even harder. That’s the nightmare Chasity Fatherree and her family are cleaning up.

“I close my eyes and I just see the tree hitting him. It’s just ... it’s horrible. The tree that he hated. The tree that he hated. He wanted it gone,” said Chasity Fatherree, the storm victim’s daughter. 60-year-old Dennis Duplessis was finishing last-minute storm preparations at his house in Gonzales, Louisiana. That tree Duplessis hated so much, a nearly 100-foot tall oak, crashed down on him in the darkness and driving rain as he stepped out of his truck.

“My mom called me and my uncle had to break it to me,” said Fatherree. Duplessis’ family says a tree limb severed an artery in his leg. As they waited for medical help to arrive, a relative held him. “She was with him when he took his last breath and I’m so thankful that he was not alone,” said Fatherree.

They say Duplessis recited the “Our Father Prayer.” He asked that one last message be shared with his wife, “tell Hope I love her,” which were his last words. Storms like Hurricane Ida change lives and the damaged can’t be measured solely by the physical destruction. Storms take symbols of the past.

Joy Banner is the communications director for the Whitney Plantation Museum, west of New Orleans. She’s a descendant of the slaves who once lived here. “Whitney Plantation is the only plantation in this region that focuses on the experience and the life of the enslaved people,” said Banner.

Hurricane Ida flattened some structures and damaged the plantation’s historic church. Artifacts had been touched by the hands of slaves and freed slaves, history that lives today.

“There were lots of tears when I was walking through the site. It was such a surreal experience. And it was such a sinking feeling in my heart, just walking around and seeing some of our buildings did collapse, seeing the trees and the debris all over the site,” said Banner. Banner rode the storm out in the plantation’s main house built in 1791.

“It was built by the artisanship, the craftman, the skill of the enslaved Africans and their descendants,” said Banner. 230 years of history survived the storm. Taking measure of all that’s lost is part of recovering from a storm like Hurricane Ida. The landscape changes in ways big and small and life is not quite the same.

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