I lived through Katrina.
I’m not saying that in a boastful way. I didn’t live in the city, I was across the lake on the Northshore. My home had minimal damage. I didn’t lose any loved ones in the storm. There were a lot of people that had it a lot worse than I did because of that storm. But everyone that was living here during that time will never forget it, no matter how little or how great its impact on their lives.
My roof needed replacing. My BBQ grill was a gone, I had forgotten to bring it inside and a tree limb fell off and pretty much took any idea of cooking on it again away. I cleaned myself out of a bowl for a few weeks, replacing it with bottled water. I used a car battery and solar power charger to run a fan for at least half the night before the charge would die. This was in September, in New Orleans it’s still hot and humid during that time of year, especially without air. We opened the store where I work at to first responders to come in and get sock, shoes, dry clothes, flashlights, whatever they needed. We took notes on what everyone picked up, later to charge whatever part of the government we needed to but ended up throwing the list away. Some of these people were still in the same wet, dirty clothes for days.
During the time of Katrina, I kept a blog, I’m going to reprint some of my posts from that time, just to give everyone a brief glimpse into what was going on at that time.
From that Sunday:
Today started at six. Actually, that was the time I was supposed to be at work, but either I slept through my alarm or it didn’t go off. I woke, rolled over and saw the time was at fifteen till six. Oops. I jumped up, dressed quickly and was on the road within minutes. I made it to the store just a little after six. Steve and Heather were waiting for me outside the building. We were supposed to have about eight associates coming in. We were going to open only till around 11, see if anyone needed to come in for hurricane supplies and to finish getting the building ready for the hurricane. Jessica and Timmy showed up not long after I did. We decided that we weren’t going to open at all, over night they had announced that Katrina was up to cat 5 now and heading right towards us. Slidell south of hwy 12 was under mandatory evacuation, that was only across the street from us. So we figured we’d finish getting the store ready to weather the storm and then head out. First off we got some money from petty cash and sent Timmy to the McDonalds to get us some food. It was open when they passed it on the way to work. We had to finish wrapping the registers and finish putting plywood over the front of the store. I had to do the Sunday fax, which is payroll and sales figures for the week. Need to send that so everyone gets paid for the week. While we were getting things ready Jessica’s parents called, they wanted her home so they could leave, they had decided to leave the city now. We turned on one of those small portable TVs we sell to watch the news. They said the Crescent City Bridge was like a parking lot, they were advising people not to take it. I knew my brother was still on the Westbank, he hadn’t left yet. I called him to tell him he better get on the road. We finished everything by around nine. My brother called me and said he was already in Slidell, I wasn’t expecting to make it until later that day from the way they were talking. He said traffic had not been a problem.
Kenneth went back to my place to help me bring some stuff outside into my house so it wouldn’t get blown away. I also had to pack. I know, I always wait until the last minute to do anything. Then we headed towards my parents. The plan had been to go to Picayune and stay in a hotel there with my parents, but since the night before they had changed their plans. A cat 5 hurricane changes a lot of plans.
We got to Picayune without any trouble. The Highway going out that way was using both lanes to head traffic out of the city. It looked strange seeing traffic on both sides of the highway going the same way.
We were on the road by twelve. Instead of the interstates, we were going to take the small state highways and head to Tennessee where my Mother’s family is. We took hwy 11 to hwy 13 to hwy 35 and then briefly got on I 55 till we got back off and on hwy 7 to Memphis. Actually outside Memphis. We ended up at my Aunt Shirley and Uncle Troys. They took us in without the bat of an eye. I haven’t been back up this way since I graduated high school, so it’s been a few years They were even willing to take in Buffy and Sheba, my parent’s dog.
It took us eight hours to get there, which wasn’t that bad. We never ran into traffic and the way was easy and smooth. We made one stop at Wendy’s to eat and let the dogs out for a walk. Buffy sat in the passenger seat and just watched the scenery pass by without a bark. Every now and then she would try and curl up and sleep, but it never last for long, she would jump up into a sitting position and stare outside the car.
I think we were all in bed by ten that night. It was a long day.
I almost didn’t leave that day. I was going to ride it out. But luckily when I saw how strong the storm was getting I decided retreat was the best option.
Today is the day we decided to leave our safety of Tennessee and head back home to see what our homes look like. From what little we can gather from the news and the internet Picayune where my parents live is not as bad off as a lot of what we’ve seen on tv. The Westbank where my brother lives, from the phone call my sister managed to get through, did not get hit too bad. Now when I say not too bad, this is all relative to what New Orleans and Biloxi went through. From everything we’ve heard about Slidell, where I live, the hurricane hit hard and bad. The storm surge was supposed to be fifteen to twenty feet high.
We left at six in the morning. Shirley wanted to cook us breakfast, but we decided to head out as soon as possible. We were going to try and retrace our path to Tennessee, by traveling the back highways. Again we found little traffic on the roads. As we got further south the terrain began to change. At first, we saw a few branches on the side of the road, as we rode on we found trees broken and lying on their side.
After hitting the center of the state gas became almost nonexsitent. Every time we stopped at a gas station they were either out of gas or they had no electricity and could not operate their pumps. Not far out from Picayune the scenery became even worse. Trees were snapped along the side of the road. Not just one or two, but as we drove down the highway the trees that paralleled the road were snapped like twigs. We passed one gas station and the top that covers the gas pumps was blown over. Fronts of buildings were blown over. Trees that were huge, that looked decades old, were uprooted and lying on the ground. Sometimes they were lying across someone’s home.
On the side of the road, a tree was blown over and was being held up by the electrical wires strung between the poles. The entire thing leaned over towards the street. This was not good, eventually, it was going to come down if it didn’t get fixed soon.
We turned down a road near my parent’s house, one that I’ve traveled a thousand times. Trees on both sides of the roads were snapped in half. The road was almost unpassable. Many times there was just enough room to travel on the road. Then we came onto a pile, at least twenty feet high, of trees uprooted across the road. We were not going up that way. We turned around and went down to another road which we were able to travel over.
I held my breath as we turned up the driveway to my parent’s house. They have a long dirt driveway, about forty feet long before their home. In the middle of the driveway was a tree. We parked the cars and walked the rest of the way. They had two car ports off to the side that was now in the middle of the yard. One of them had literally been lifted up, blown over a fence without touching the fenced and was lying bent in two in the middle of their yard. The roof of their shed was peeled back, part of it had been ripped off and was hanging over their patio cover. The side window on my father’s shop was broken and the door to the shop was blown off. But all his tool were still inside and looked in good shape.
The good news was that their home was fine. Some shingles had been blown off the roof, but besides that, it looked good.
My brother and I went down and cut the tree apart so we could drive all the way up to the house. My father needs a chainsaw. We had to cut the tree apart with an ax and a saw. It took us a little while but we managed.
A few more things and then I decided to head home. My brother was going to stay the night. He was going to have to go the long way around New Orleans to get to the West Bank, so he wanted to make sure he had a full day to try and get home.
My gas tank was getting closer to E, but I didn’t have that long a trip. As bad as it had been so far, Slidell was worse.
I’ve never been in a war zone, but I’ve read how when a bomb goes off it just shatters the land, the shock wave can snap the trees in half. That’s what the land looked like
as I tried to get home. When I turned down the street to get back towards my home all I saw was downed trees. It was a lot of weaving back and forth but I thought I was going to make it, till I got almost to the end and a tree was blocking the street. The good news was there was a backhoe there, looking like he was getting ready to move the tree aside. I decided to drive down to the store and see if anyone had made it there while the moved the tree aside.
Two campers were parked in front of the store when I got there. The door was unlocked. A stranger was at the doorway. He was from loss prevention. He said Loretta, our district manager was in the back of the store. I went back and talked with her for awhile. She had talked to just about all the other managers and everyone was safe. When I mentioned that I was almost out of gas she came to the rescue, she had a gas can in her car with gas in it. At least enough to get me around for another day, I was on E now.
I won’t mention the fact that I locked my keys in my car when I went in, it was that type of day.
I left to try and get back home. This time the tree was gone. I had to dive under a leaning tree that looked like it was leaning too much, but I made it. As I drove back towards my trailer I was getting nervous. I passed one trailer where the entire side was pulled loose. I turned on my street.
I had a wooden fence around my trailer. Not one part of the fence was still standing. It was flattened. Part of the pine tree in my front yard was on my porch. My gas grill was upside down. I stood in shock. The trailer looked good though. Across the street, from me, there was a tree across the front of the trailer. In another yard, a huge tree was on its side. I took some pictures, I’ll post as soon I can get them developed.
I opened the door to my refrigerator and took a step back. Whoah, it smelled. I filled two big garbage bags with the entire contents of the refrigerator, there was no use to try to save anything in it. I brought in all my food and water I got from Memphis and set up as best as I can. I’ve got my little portable tv, some food, something to drink. No water, no electricity. I opened all the windows, some of them barely opened, I don’t think I’ve even opened some of them, I use the air conditioner instead of open windows. But it is still hard in here, sleeping is going to be fun. But at least it’ll be in my own bed.
I’m going to watch a little more news and then probably head to bed. I’m off to work tomorrow at six, we’re going to try and get open where at least people can get some things they may
These next posts are from my first days back. The problems I faced with minuscule compared to what a lot of people were facing and we’re going to face in the future.
The problem with writing these posts is that I tend to do it at the end of the day when I’m tired and not wanting to do anything. My mind has shut down and just want to rest along with the rest of my body.
Today started at five in the a.m. I was supposed to be at work at seven, mainly just a chance to see who was here and figure out what we’re going to do type thing. Sams was supposed to have gas at six this morning. I got up, brushed my teeth and managed to clean myself with a washcloth and bowl of water. Right now two of the most precious commodities we have are water and gas.
I got to Sams at around 5:30 or so. There already was a line. I’d say there were at least sixty cars ahead of me. I parked, turned the car off and waited. I got out and started talking to the people around me. I was parked next to a Sams employee that was directing traffic. He was from out of state, I forget where now. He was part of Sams disaster team, they go in after something like this and help to get the store running. They already had a generator running and the store was opening at seven. That was also the time he told her they were supposed to start selling gas.
By seven the line had to be a couple hundred cars long behind me. He figured they had enough gas to last about four hours. Once they started it went fast. They had a lot of pumps and they had an employee working each pump. Full-service gas, what a concept! He pumped it and took my money. They had it organized very well. They didn’t fool around with the cents, they just took the dollar amount, saved them time with having to deal with a lot of change. The only bad thing, and I didn’t think of it but I should have, was that you had to pay with cash for the gas. I hardly ever carry cash around, I’m so used to being able to use my debit card for anything. Luckily I had some cash from my trip to Houston, my per diem and gas money and etc. By then it was almost eight o’clock.
I zipped over to work. Steve was the only manager there. Darryl (the store director) was not there yet. Loretta (the district manager) was there. Right after I got there Darryl showed up. He actually showed up while I was in the back of the store shopping. I figured there were some things I needed before we opened and they all disappeared.
They were sending in a team of about twenty associates from the Texas stores in campers to actually run the store, they figured the associates had enough to do right now. The associates could work if they wanted to, but this way it enabled us to open and serve the customers. The plan is to only let in around twenty customers at a time, stay with them as they shopped. We had a generator running so we actually had lights and some air conditioning.
One nice thing Loretta told us that the company intended to keep paying the managers no matter what. Now I know that could change later, but I thought that was pretty nice of the company, especially when they’re sending in other people to do our work so we can attend to personal matters.
We decided that we wouldn’t open until Monday. The Texas people wouldn’t be there until then, so we figured there was no way we were going to be able to do much. Steve had to bring his wife to Arkansas, she’s pregnant and he wants her around doctors and a more stable environment. Darryl wanted to get back to his in-laws and help with the cleaning. He figures his house is gone, he lives in Chalmette which is just about all under water. I was getting some stuff from the store for my parents too, so I wanted to drive out there and give it to them and see if I could help them out some. Plus I had a lot of stuff to do at home.
I filled two buggies with stuff. I got two camp stoves, ideal for cooking inside. Darryl showed me this device that connects to a marine battery we sell and then you can plug a light or fan into it. So I got two marine batteries and these devices. I got a cooler, I don’t own a cooler. I ended up getting a bunch of stuff I figured I could use.
I would have got my brother some stuff too, but he was supposed to be going to the Westbank early this morning and I wasn’t sure when I’d see him again with the ways things were around here.
While I was there some police officers and national guardsmen came in for some stuff. We’ve been letting them come in, get whatever they need and just write it down and we’ll worry about the money later. That was what Darryl let me do too.
I went home, dropped the stuff off and headed back to Sams. They would take a check if you were a Sams member, which luckily I was. I wanted to get some ice more than anything and figured I could stock up on some foodstuff. Of course, there was a line. I have an idea that before this is all over with I’m going to stand in a lot of lines. They were only letting about two dozen people in at a time. The line moved fairly quickly and wasn’t that long. It took me about thirty minutes to get in.
I got a lot of canned goods and some other things that I hope will last in this heat. And my ice. I was going to get a fan, I don’t have one at home, but I forgot.
Back home to drop this stuff off, empty the ice in the cooler, which only took about half my ice, so I figured I’d bring the other half to my parents. Then back in the car and over to my parents.
I was surprised when I got there to see my brother there. He had already tried to get into the Westbank and couldn’t. They’ve declared martial law there and are not letting anyone in. They said starting Monday they’ll let people in. I was glad to see him but knew he was upset about not getting in. He just wants to know what condition his house is in. He is pretty sure that there was no flood damage but a tree could have fallen through, or looters or who knows. On the radio, I heard that looters burned Oakwood Shopping Mall down, which is the big mall on the Westbank. It’s one of the busiest malls in New Orleans. The not knowing is driving him crazy.
Then I felt bad cause I didn’t get him anything. I’ll go back tomorrow and try to get him some things, at least the camp stove. The good thing is that he’s there for the next two days to help my parents around the house.
I visited for a little while then jumped back in my car to head home. I had a tree on my porch I wanted to try and get off. I got home, ate some spam, but I was able to cook it on my camping stove! Such small joys make us feel more human.
One of the things I got at work was a saw and ax. The entire top of this pine tree was on my porch. I’m lucky it didn’t fall a little further and go through my roof. It took me about two hours to cut it up and throw off the side, but my porch is now clear. I’m going to put my outdoor furniture back out there, so it’ll clear up my living room. I still am going to have to cut the tree up into smaller pieces to get out of here. I just cut off limbs and chunks so I could move it.
The rest of the night I plan to spend watching tv (I have a little portable tv I’m sure I’ve already mentioned), maybe eat something else and turn on my fan and then probably to bed. Tommorrow I’m sure will be another fun day.
The next day:
Another late morning, I got up at eight this morning. Mornings are the best time of the day. Last night my battery much not have charged completely, the fan went off before I fell asleep. But it was not that hot so I didn’t’ worry too much about it. But at seven or eight in the morning there is a slight chill in the air and it feels so good. Makes you just want to lay there and not move.
Went to Sams today for more ice. It looks like the cooler will hold the ice for about two days and then I’ll have to be getting more ice. I have to get twenty pounds of ice from Sams, they sell everything in bulk. That is more ice than I need so I noticed some more of my neighbors across the street are coming home so I went and gave them a bag of ice. I want more people to come home. There is safety in numbers.
On the way to Sams, I stopped at the store. Darryl was there, talking on the phone to Loretta. I talked to his wife while he was on the phone. The store was boarded back up, all the people from home office had left. After Darryl got off the phone he told me that they decided not to open until Wednesday or Thursday, that most people needed food and things like that more than what we sold. He said Loretta was pretty ragged, she’s been traveling to the stores and seeing all this damage and it has to be getting to her. The store in Gulfport was wiped out. The one in Hariharan has been looted and has standing water.
Afterwards, I went to check on my parents. Today is the last day my brother will be there. He is heading home tomorrow, they are lifting the ban at six a.m. to get into Jerffersion Parish. Yesterday my Dad collapsed, he dehydrated himself. I’m glad my brother was there. He put him in the van and turned the air conditioner on and they gave him a lot of water and soaked him down. He still isn’t feeling all that great today, but maybe it is for the best. It shows him that both he and my mother have to take it slow in this heat. They can’t try and do too much too quickly. Better it to have happened now when my brother was there than later. I don’t know how often I’ll be able to get up there with gas so hard to get hold of.
The WalMart in Picayune was open some, my brother, mother, and sister went. I wanted to get some stuff that I couldn’t find at Sams. I ended up spending close to a hundred dollars. I got some more food, but I also got a rake to try and help clean my yard up and a push broom. I want to sweep the street in front of my home, just to try and make it look better. Right now every little thing that makes things look a little more normal is a help.
They also got a generator. It lasts for about eleven hours. I’m thinking of going to Sams and getting one of the smaller generators. I’m just worried about getting the gas for it. It takes about five to six gallons for twelve hours. I have two five gallon tanks if I can get them filled. I don’t mind spending the money on a generator if I can keep it running, I hate to spend the money on it and then not even be able to get the gas to use it.
I’ve been out in the yard cleaning still. I finally got all the tree from my yard to the front. There is still a lot of pine needles and pine cones in the yard, but that’s what I got the rake for. My brick patio was covered with debris from the tree. I cleaned it and it looks better than it has in awhile, to be honest. I even weeded in between some of the bricks which I haven’t done in too long. I figured that as I clean I just as well get things looking as good as I can.
Ok, that’s it for now, later tonight if this laptop doesn’t die on me. I wasn’t able to charge it last night since the battery didn’t charge completely. Between charging the laptop and having a fan run, the fan wins out.
And the next day:
Today I decided to sleep in. So, of course, I woke up at five a.m. To my surprise, the fan was still running. The power inverter was still working. Actually, the battery was still working, I figured it was going to die sometime during the night. And then it died. Still, it lasted longer than I expected. And now it was cool outside, this time of the morning, so it didn’t feel so bad.
I went back to sleep and woke up around eight. I got up and did my little washing by the sink. I wet a washcloth, soap my body and then run the washcloth over my body again and then dry off. That’s my bath.
I decided to take all my can foods and put them out where I could see them. Why? I don’t know, I just felt better doing it like this. That way I wouldn’t be surprised when I was running low on food, I wouldn’t miss something in the cabinets. I took a small bookcase I had in the hallway and put it on the back side of the bar and filled this up with all the foodstuff I bought from Sams yesterday. Then I went through my cabinets and took what I thought I could use and put them in the bookcase. I found some stuff that I just had to throw away.
Next, I decided to clean out my refrigerator. It was empty so I figured this was a good time to give it a good scrubbing. Afterwards, I put some water and drinks in it to store.
I forgot about my upright freezer. It was full of food. So I had to take a garbage bag and go clean it up too. I emptied everything in the garbage bag. I took everything to the trash dumpster. While there I was talking to a few other people that were from the trailer park. One guy said that someone tried to break into his trailer last night, only to run away when someone shined a flashlight on them.
My neighbors on my left came home. They had gone to Tennessee to ride out the storm. They actually weren’t here to stay, they were just coming to pick up some things and check on their trailer. They had brought a truckload of water back with them and gave me a case of water.
My neighbor across the street, Chris, had stayed in his trailer during the hurricane. He said the wind literally lifted the trailer up and shook it. Luckily it didn’t lift it too hight. During the night someone had stolen his battery out of his truck. He was fed up and wanted to leave. But he had no battery. He had no phone, the phones, the cell phones still weren’t working. He wanted to call his brother to come get him. He thought a phone in Pearl River at this local store was working so I agreed to take him down there to see. We tried three different places before we found a phone that worked. But it only worked with a calling card, money just fell through it.
I brought him back home. He wasn’t that happy, but there wasn’t much more we could do.
I was pulling the tree that I pushed off my porch into the side of my yard to the front of the yard. This was hard work, the limbs all twisted together. My body is covered in scratches and cuts from the pine cones and needles. I got maybe a little over half of the tree moved to the front. What I’m going to do with it here I’m not sure, but I feel better getting it in the front by the side of the road.
Chris found a battery and hooked it up. I had about a gallon of gas in a gas tank that I used for my lawn mower and gave it to him. He had about half a tank.
I was exhausted. I sat in my chair on the porch and just did not want to move. I drank two bottles of water. Actually one bottle, the other bottle I filled from the melted ice in the cooler. I never imagined water could taste so good…I’m sure I’ll be repeating that in the time to come.
It’s dark outside now and I keep hearing cars go up and down the main street, up and down. Now I just heard what is either a car backfiring or a gunshot. To me, it sounded like a gunshot, but I can’t know for sure.
The breach in the levee may be filled tomorrow. Hopefully, it will be. That will make a big difference in New Orleans. I just saw an interview with the Mayor of New Orleans and he looked completely exhausted, mentally and physically. I’m going to watch a little more tv and than probably go to bed.
And the final post from then I’m going to reprint:
It’s been nine days since this started. And probably a multiple of those nine days before we get anywhere close to normalcy.
Today I slept really late, it was after eight before I got out of bed. I woke up with a headache and really did not want to do anything. I got up, washed and brushed my teeth and then tried to figure out what I wanted to do today. Since I had more bananas than I knew what to do with I figured I’d drive over my parents and give them the ones Sams gave me. When I got there no one was home. The front door was open, the dogs were inside. They are terrible about going out and just leaving the door open. They think because they live in a small town that there is no crime. And what’s worse with the hurricane there are looters everywhere.
I went in, walking through their house to see if someone was in the back or maybe out back. As I walked through I heard a motor humming. Then I realized that it was cool inside. I flicked a light switch. The light came on. They had power! Wow, what a difference that makes.
I looked in their refrigerator and found some turkey. I made myself a sandwich. They even had mayonnaise! I felt like I was in heaven. I would kill for a hamburger right now. Even the stores that are selling food at the moment are not selling any frozen stuff or meat. All that was ruined in the hurricane, so they’re cleaning the racks and getting ready to get some in I hope.
I waited around for about an hour and when no one showed up I left. I came home and went to raking the yard. I raked most of the front yard, all the pine needles, pine cones, tree bark and whatever else is in the yard. At least it’s starting to look somewhat normal.
There’s a nice breeze blowing through right now. It’s keeping the place fairly cool. But it has the feel of rain and that’s something we don’t need.
As I was raking I kept looking at my fence. I was thinking the front part I could fix by myself. It was not completely blown down, just leaning forward. If I could push it back, prop it up I could fill concrete around it and it should stand. It sounded like a plan so I went to Home Depot to get the concrete and wood. While there I saw Walmart was open so I decided to go there too. I needed a hoe and shovel and Home Depot’s garden section wasn’t open.
While in Walmart my phone rang. It hasn’t been working since I talked to Heather last night. I was able to get through to Paul Stewart and leave a message that I was alive, but that was it. It was my brother. He had made it back to the Westbank ok. His house had gotten water in it. The bedrooms and part of the den were flooded. A couple inches of water he told me. He had pulled up some of the carpets. He said he was coming back to my parents tonight, the smell of the standing water was too much for him to stay in. He’d go back in the morning. I told him I’d go help him tomorrow if he was going to come back tomorrow night.
I got home and unloaded all the stuff I bought. I went over to push the fence up. It was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. The fence did not want to move. I had to wedge one of the boards against it and push the board down, pushing the fence out and back towards what I hoped was more of what a fence was supposed to look like. I went to the lake and filled my bucket up with water and came back. I filled the holes with cement and then water and mixed and kept it up till I had a lot of cement around the fence posts. Hopefully, it will work. If it works there are a few other sections of the fence that blew down like that. I can get them up and cement in place and then the remaining pieces I can attach, like a giant puzzle.
I think I’m going to go spend the night with my parents tonight. I can take a hot shower, sleep in air conditioning and otherwise act like a normal person again. That way I’ll be there when my brother wants to leave too. I’m sure he is going to want to leave early. He said it took him about four hours to get into the Westbank today. Tommorrow will probably be worse, more people will be trying to get back in than.
I’m not going to go into the fact that a few days after this I ended up in the hospital. My appendices had turned gangrene and I almost died. Yea, I’m all about the timing, but that’s a different post and besides the fact that the hospital had one doctor, no roof but was still waiting on as many people as they could, that’s a story for another time.
While there is no hurricane during this story arch for Ayla the history of her time and her city are deeply reflected by the histories of hurricanes. Here’s a post I wrote two years after the storm:
At least they picked up the sign. Driving through New Orleans East, coming in from Slidell, on the right side of the highway, in what had been one of those groupings of stores in one area, there was a sign for Save-A-Lot supermarkets. It had been pushed forward by the winds and snapped in half, so it was laying on its side. Every time I drove that highway I saw that sign. Yes, there were a lot worse things to see, right there on that highway in fact, but for me, that sign became my white whale of Katrina. For over a year it sat there, next to a store that was no longer in use, next to a whole bunch of other stores that were no longer fit to be used. Finally, someone took the sign down and hauled it away.
The Sams store that was near the Save-A-Lot’s has been cleared to the ground. So has the Walmart. The Lake Forest Mall, right across I-1o from all this has also been completed razed to the ground. I remember when I first moved to Louisiana we (we being my parents and brother and sister) drove all the way from the Westbank to Lake Forest out in New Orleans East for the Farrels ice cream parlor. There also was an ice skating rink in the middle of the mall.
There’s a sign on the site where the Mall used to be saying that there is a Lowes coming soon. I’m not sure how they’re going to find people to staff the store. They still don’t have a grocery store open in New Orleans East. There are some people moving back, but they need stores near them that can provide the necessities. These stores need people that can provide work for them. It’s a cruel circle.
My parents would still be living in Mississippi if hadn’t been for Katrina. Or I mean my Mom would now. They only moved after the storm, when they came back to find their car patios in their front yard. I think the storm really scared my Mom, she was in a rush to move. Which has been a blessing and a curse? I miss not having her near here, more so now, since my Dad died. And when he was sick it was hard. But it is also good because that is where all her family saves for me and my brother is. There is a lot more family up there to give her support than either my brother or I could by ourselves.
I do have to admit that Katrina might have saved my life. After coming back from the storm I ended up in the hospital. My appendix had turned gangrene, the doctors told me another day and I would have been dead. I’m not much of a hospital person. I rarely go to doctors. The only reason I think I went then was that everyone was talking about “Katrina flu,” people were getting it from the air and the water. The day before I had been on the Westbank with my brother, helping him pull up the carpet. I thought I might have picked something up in the water from the flood. So I went. I was in a lot of pain, so even without that excuse I’d like to think I would have gone to the doctor, but I don’t know.
People in Lakeview, which was one of the hardest hit areas in the city, are actually making a comeback. They’ve managed to do a lot of it on their own. With their own money, borrowing money, and getting the work done. Which is great and to take nothing from them, but they are also an affluent section of the city, so they had money to start with. Areas like the 9th Ward, which doesn’t have the money to do it on their own are still hurting.
You can still drive down streets and see the big Xs on the side of houses. The X was made when the rescue teams searched the house. They put the date, their unit number and the number of dead found in the house. Driving by a house with an X and a 1 or 2 written in black on the side is still chilling.
The little grocery store next to the fairgrounds where all our early birds for the Jazz Fest would go for breakfast is gone. This last Jazz Fest Larry and I huddled underneath its porch as the rain poured around us, but the doors were closed. The owners are said to have left town and have no plans on coming back.
One of our more honest (or so we thought) politicians, one of the few voices of reason after the storm, that called for us to come together as one, to not let race divide us, was proven to be less than sterling when he admitted to taking a bribe, years before the storm. He did something that few politicians, especially ones from this state, did and apologize to the people and admit that he made a mistake and that he let a lot of people down.
Meanwhile “Dollar Bill” Jefferson continues to stockpile his freezer with cash and get re-elected. The Mayor is fairly quiet the past months, after making a fool of himself almost every time he opened his mouth. When we as a city needed a leader, someone to take charge and command action, get things done, he was hiding in one of the high-rise hotels from the winds of the storm, not even wanting to come out of his room to talk to people.
I know people still living in FEMA trailers. But now FEMA wants their trailers back. They are telling people that they have to leave their trailers. But where can they go? Money to help people rebuild their lives is barely trickling in. The Road Home program has paid money to a very small percentage of the people needing the money.
It’s easy to forget about us down here. It’s been two years. Most people probably think that we’re ok, that most people have rebuilt and moved on with their lives. But we’re still long ways from that goal. It’s easy for the rest of the country to forget about us since our government has pretty much forgotten about us. Bush doesn’t want to be reminded of his ineptness in handling Katrina. He’ll come down here for the anniversary and talk about how things are going so good and that things are on track and that he hasn’t forgotten about us, but then he’ll climb in Air Force One and fly over our lands again and look out the window and think about something else and forget who we are.
We had politicians after the storm saying that we shouldn’t re-open New Orleans. Just write it off as a bad investment. I have friends ask me why I would want to live here, was I crazy? Even today, ten years plus after the storm, we are still cleaning up from Katrina. My brother has been working on repairing his house since then. I was going to post to some of the articles from these politicians about Katrina, but simply don’t have enough left in me to go back and re-read some of those hateful, spiteful words about a city I love.
The ineptness of post-Katrina is pretty much history now and I’m not going to belabor that point any further.
All this goes into the fact that I believe if New Orleans has another Katrina, or one even stronger, than the city may not come back. Or at least not the city as it is. I can see the government trying to make the best of a bad spot and doing something with the city.
This is just background to try to explain why in the future of Ayla the United States government decides to sell the city of New Orleans after two Katrina plus strength hurricanes within five years of each other.