BRAITHWAITE, La. - For Jesse and Suzanne Shaffer, Isaac didn't just destroy their home; it wiped out their community.
On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the hurricane's first of two landfalls in Louisiana, Braithwaite Park remains eerily quiet. There are no children playing, no neighbors catching up.
All that's left are memories and empty homes.
“Community, it's where it's at, and you just have that taken away from you and a lot of people don't realize how much that does hurt,” said Jesse Shaffer.
Of 75 homes in the Braithwaite Park subdivision, officials know of only two families who plan to rebuild.
The Shaffers are not among them. Their home is still stripped to the studs.
“We're still in limbo. We don't know where we want to go,” said Suzanne Shaffer.
The area was also inundated with water after Hurricane Katrina, but the flooding in Isaac was worse. And for many Braithwaite homeowners, the biggest fear in moving back is the continued lack of federal levee protection.
Plaquemines Parish government is working to shore up the current 8 foot levees and build them to 12 feet, but many who lived in Braithwaite say that's not enough.
“We had 8 foot levees and the water came over the top of those levees, 8 to 10 feet,” said Jesse Shaffer. “12 feet isn't going to do us any good.”
Plaquemines Parish says it could take three to five years to complete their local levee project. They're hoping it will eventually be adopted into the federal levee system.
But there's no guarantee, and with the threat of rising insurance rates and the possibility of future storms, those like the Shaffers aren't taking any chances.
“If someone came in here and invaded us from another country, [the federal government] would be here in a second, but we were invaded, not by an enemy, but by something else that ruined our life. A lot of people’s lives,” said Jesse Shaffer. “Everyone's life in the Braithwaite community has been turned upside down.”
When the storm surge rushed in during Isaac, dozens of homes in Braithwaite Park filled with water. Two people drowned. Many others were rescued from rooftops. And homeowners fear another storm could bring the same devastation.
Jesse Shaffer received a national medal for his rescue efforts. But what he and his family really want is federal levee protection.
“It's like our hands are tied,” said Suzanne Shaffer. “We're not getting any assistance, any help. We're on our own. It's just hard to deal with.”
The state allocated $8 million in federal funds to Plaquemines Parish, originally intended to either buyout or elevate homes that received significant water damage in Hurricane Isaac, according to Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser.
But so many people applied for a buyout that the state advised the parish to scrap that program and use the funds to elevate homes instead.