Ten Years
Ten Years

Yes. Ten years.

Some buildings are still in a state of limbo. I don’t know everybody’s story. I can’t possibly know. But, when I stumble across a house that I can actually enter without breaking into it, I like to explore. Even though it’s pretty obvious what I’m looking at, often I don’t know why I’m looking at it. I don’t know why work on a building stopped. I don’t know what became of the people who used to live in the house. I always hope that they found a better life wherever they landed when they evacuated.  I know what it feels like to walk into your home after the water finally dried out.  You hope for the best. You usually find the worst. Maybe, they couldn’t find enough money to keep going. Some of the houses in the 9th Ward were either woefully underinsured or had been paid for so long ago that the current owner didn’t even bother to insure it.

I can’t tell you much about the houses in these pictures. The first three pictures are of one house. Most of  the immediate neighborhood in which I found has been rebuilt. The bottom picture is of a second house a few streets away. A very special house. I’ll tell you about that in a shorter story directly under the picture.

The house in the first three pictures was cleaned out and remediated. A lot of personal belongings were swept into one room. If you need a dirty and muddy set of dinner plates, this is the place. The walls were stripped down to the two by fours. And, that’s about where the worked stopped. The front room, which was converted from an outdoor porch, had not been swept out. It remains as it looked after the flood waters receded and the house dried out. That’s where I found that straw hat in the second picture. I don’t think it’s been moved in ten years. I’ve brightened image up a little bit, but the hat is embedded into the floor. Who knows?

The interior speaks to something I say a lot. Nature doesn’t care. It doesn’t care about good. Or bad. It always seeks stasis. The weeds and plants are growing through the floor. Through the walls. Through glass that was long ago broken.

If this house isn’t repaired and doesn’t get demolished, eventually it will just revert back to nature. The roots of all of this plant growth will eventually weaken every point in the house. It will just collapse. It may take years. Or, decades. It will happen.

And now. The bottom picture.

From the inside
From the inside
Katrina Cross
Katrina Cross

Normally when I do this kind of urban exploration I go out by myself. Not yesterday. I was accompanied by the lady of the house.  We have very different careers. We can’t always do stuff together. Besides, some of the places I go are sporty. That’s an old term for dangerous. You can figure out the rest of what I’m thinking. She hasn’t been to many of the places that I’ve been photographing this week so she really wanted to see for herself.

When I saw this place I had to check it out. It is the last remaining house on a city block that is just grass and a few bits of foundation. We stopped. I took a few pictures. I saw the Katrina Cross — the spray painted sign that tells you who the first responders were, when they came, where they came from and what they found – and wanted to get closer. I started to break a little trail. As I got closer I could see the numbers, but I still couldn’t read the bottom. I worked my way a little closer and stopped in my tracks. I told her to back out. She said later that she thought I ran into a snake or even a little alligator. Some kind of wild critter.

That wasn’t it.

This place is sacred ground. The bottom spray painted line said, “Two Bodies.”

I can’t, or won’t photograph a cross like that. Two people lost their lives here. I cannot imagine what the last moments of their lives must have been like. I don’t want to know. May they rest in peace.

I have no idea why this house is still standing. The city has been pretty efficient in tearing down abandoned houses even though there are a lot of them. Usually, those look like they are ready to collapse on their own. Despite what happened here, the building doesn’t look so bad.

Published by Ray Laskowitz

I am a visual storyteller. I've been making pictures for some 40 years. I travel the world in search of the right image. in the right light at the right time. You can reach me by phone at 505.280.4686, or by email at or For a quick look at my work please go to

12 thoughts on “Bittersweet

  1. Reading these stories ten years later gives me the chills. I remember exactly where I was standing when I first learned of the devastation.
    For whatever reason, I have a connection to New Orleans. I’ve never been there – not even in the airport. But, I’ve dreamed of the Pontchartrain and worried about the city sitting below it since I was in college.
    There is no comparison, but our home flooded exactly a year before Katrina hit. I know how much our destroyed home impacted me, changed our lives. I can’t imagine what it did to an entire city. When the news of Katrina hit, my heart went to survivors and those who lost. I worried about how people would get their diabetes meds and oxygen if they asthma. All the worry and no power to do anything. It feels wrong for a middle of the country KS girl to have such hurt connected to these stories…but, I do. Thank you for keeping these memories front and center.
    And your photos…well, you know how I feel about them.


    1. Thank you, Michelle. Writing this has provided me with a lot of unintended consequences. The biggest is that telling my stories have brought me a measure of peace. I didn’t know it, because after all — I lived my life — but I’ve been feeling something that wasn’t good for a decade. I don’t know if it was angry or sad. But, it was… The peace started to come on Sunday. It’s fully there as I write to you. I’m still bothered by what a blogging friend who I actually know in real life calls “The Katrinaversary Blues: Of Resilience Tours, Carpetbaggers and Disaster Tours.” I was going to reblog his last post, but I slept on it. Nah, I’m doing that. As Jimmy Buffet once wrote, “ten years of tears…” Enough.

      I’m also finding it harder to write about this. As the lady of the house says, “You have to go through some S*^T in order to write. But once it’s out it’s gone.” I’m about at that point. I’m going to tell one story on Wednesday, I think. It still blows my mind when I think of it. Today’s story is about rebuilding and nor rebuilding.

      On the 27th, 28th, 29th we’ll have three presidents visiting us — Obama, Bush and Clinton. I won’t be anywhere near them. I’ll do what I do. On the 29th, I’ll be in the Lower 9th with my people. Big long second line through the yet un-rebuilt neighborhood. And, I’ll be done.

      Oh, those meds? That was easy. 🙂 Easier then you think. If you were smart, you grabbed the bottles of whatever you took for long term chronic care. When you ran out, if it wasn’t a scheduled drug like an opiate, you could go into almost any drugstore in Louisiana and they filled them. For free.
      Thank you, Ray


      1. And you tell me that you’re “not really a writer”?
        Your reply back to me was every bit as good as your original post. You write for the same host of reasons I do – get through the s*& and then leave it behind.
        I’m eager to see what you have in store today. I’m actually at my desk, so I’ll keep my eyes open.
        Thank you for sharing the insight on the meds. I’ve worked in healthcare for 25+ years and my mind naturally goes there.
        See you later today, Ray. xo


      2. I’m not. 🙂 My first wife is a writer. Even in her earliest years she could write a school board meeting onto the front page on a major metro newspaper. I’m a visual person first, last and always. If I can write at all, it’s out of self defense. 🙂 one more thing about that. You can stumble around looking for things to photograph by discovery. You have to have something to say when you write.

        Today’s story is about our unbalanced recovery. I hope I was clear enough. I enjoyed the place, but it isn’t what the neighborhood needs or wants.

        Tomorrow’s is the mind blower. I haven’t written or photographed it, but I’m leaving in a bit to do that.

        Yes. The bigger chain pharmacies — Walgreens, CVS and so on — could get med supplies and were very generous.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you. I get a little OCD on projects like this. I don’t let go. The Katrina Cross surprised me. I hadn’t seen one with a body count in a long, long time. Mostly, those houses are gone now.


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