Simone Bruni: Demolition Diva

The walls shook as the ferocity of the Cat 5 hurricane bore down on the old wooden structures in the historic French Quarter. As water began to flood the buildings, wall panels began ripping off piece by piece as poor souls witnessed their lives being swept away by one of the most destructive hurricanes of the century.

A City Underwater

New Orleans, August 29, 2005 — forces of nature had decimated the city and robbed the population of its beloved lifestyle. The faithful had no churches in which to worship. The athletes had no fields or stadiums in which to practice. The old men had no park to play their chess, and the already hungry and impoverished parts of the city had no clean water to quench their thirst.

On this fateful day, even hope had drowned in the floods. This soulful city found itself underwater as its citizens, frazzled, pleaded for help. Thousands were stranded in arenas while others yelled and created SOS signs on their rooftops. The Big Easy fell victim to bad levees and poorly maintained infrastructures. The city became a metaphor for the government’s lack of care. From the engineering and public projects to government protocols, everything culminated into an unimaginable disaster. It was a perfect storm in more ways than one. Restoring a life after this tragedy proved to be far more difficult and challenging than weathering the storm itself. There was debris and flooding everywhere.

Many people lost their lives.

Many people lost their livelihoods.

But some refused to fall victim to their demise including one exceptional woman who found her calling.

Simone Bruni saw the waters devastate her house, her hometown, and her means of income. Her entire world fell apart both figuratively and literally. Her closet became her shelter while other families huddled against the storm in their bathtubs or attics. But for this New Orleans native, she had no support or someone to cling to, she had only her perseverance, intelligence, and a good heart.

Roll Up Your Hot Pink Sleeves

Two Brazilian brothers were removing mildew from walls of her property as she watched. Sitting in despair, she mumbled, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do?”

Then the two said what needed to be said, “You are an American. You have every right to own your own business. You have opportunities that we do not have in our country. You don’t know how lucky you are. Go start a business.”

The seed was planted and the flowers of possibility bloomed. Her lifestyle and work had been eradicated. Yet, instead of crying over it, Bruni rolled up her sleeves and got to work.  If two immigrants could keep trucking’ in the country of endless possibilities, then there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do if she set her mind to it. She saw the need all around her for demolition and debris removal and decided to do something about it.

“In that moment, I received the greatest lesson of my life. Two simple, down-to-earth boys showed me the way. When catastrophe hit, it didn’t matter that I was a doctor’s daughter; that I had private-school education; or that I knew the best concierges, restaurant owners, and all those other meaningless things. I had a choice of how I was going to react to my circumstances. I had to choose my attitude. I chose to be hopeful,” says Bruni.

Seeing Hot Pink

Today, driving down a New Orleans highway, it is not uncommon to catch a glimpse of a hot pink colored dumpster truck emblazoned with the company name, Demo Diva. The burgeoning business was founded by none other than Bruni.

It started with a compassionate heart accompanied by hot pink business cards and yard signs.  She sold her demolition services across the city, door to door. Eventually, Demo Diva became a multi-million-dollar company with a service area covering Louisiana and the Gulf Coast. It now has three excavators and many dumpsters served by two roll-off trucks. Their hot pink exterior reflects the woman’s touch in the endeavor.

“As a woman I was bringing those emotional qualities to a business that normally is very perfunctory, very rough, crusty. You would never imagine that demolition would be very soft and feminine. But I made it that way,” says Bruni.

From Events Diva to Demo Diva

Before she found the demolition niche, she was a corporate event planner managing parties and business gatherings. Ironically, those same buildings, restaurants, hotels, and plantations that once showcased her events were being demolished and hauled off by Demo Diva. These locations, now hushed, were once wonderfully accented by the chatter of content patrons and clinking of utensils and glasses above a smooth jazz sound in the background. But post Katrina, only the sound of heavy machinery trudging through debris and National Guard machinery rang through the streets.

More than 1,400 residents died, and thousands left their homes forever.  But many others stayed, many survived and were determined to rebuild. With a helping of Bruni’s Demo Diva and a pinch of persistence, they rolled up their sleeves and did just that. The city will never be as it once was and if Simone Bruni has anything to say about it, it will be better than ever.

Learn more about the woman who was determined to save her city with her Demo Diva company by visiting her website at www.demodiva.com or read more about her by clicking here for our interview with her.

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