Verna leaned over to pick up her crying four-year-old daughter who was coughing continuously. I put down my pen and turned off the tape recorder. Verna told me that in the last few days since she and her mother moved into their new FEMA trailer with her two daughters, Lily, her younger daughter, had begun to have teary red eyes and a “God awful” cough that was worsening. Her older daughter, Carrie, seven, was also showing signs of respiratory distress. According to Verna, neither of her daughters had any of these symptoms before moving into the trailer. She asked me if it was possible that it had anything to do with the trailer. I told her it was possible, that there might be some kind of off-venting causing the problem, but that I was not sure. This was my introduction to what would become the FEMA trailer syndrome and
the beginning of Verna’s long struggle to learn why her daughters were having health problems. At that time, no one could have imagined the bizarre twists and turns this story would take or the plots and subplots that would emerge over the coming three years.