Like a moth to a flame.
I kept going back. At first, every week or so. I had to know what would become of a once vibrant neighborhood of blue-collar people. While it is true that many people lost their lives out here, many more didn’t. It is still sacred ground. It always will be.
They were the rebuilders. The ones whose sense of pride and ownership brought them back to almost nothing day after day. They emptied their houses out. They removed pews from churches in hopes that they would dry out under our hot Louisiana sun.
Some even scraped away what remained of their houses in hopes that they could started rebuilding soon. Dump truck after dump truck helped them remove the remains and the debris. The home owners hoped to rebuild soon.
It was not to be.
So many of the home owners lived in houses that were built by their grandfathers or their great grandfathers. When one generation passed, the next generation simply moved into the family home. There was no legal line of succession. Most homes were insured at, maybe 1920 replacement cost prices.
Without legal proof of ownership the residents could not qualify for anything. No FEMA funds. No LRH funds. No low-interest SBA loans. No nothing. Probably 90% of these people never returned home. They had no home to come back to. Their diaspora is far and wide. Many went to Houston. Many went to Atlanta. Some went further west. When we evacuated to New Mexico one of my 7th Ward neighbors family lived two doors down from us. Imagine our joy at seeing each other alive.
Yet many continued to care for their property. Even today. You’ll often see overgrown land with one neatly mowed and manicured property in the middle of that.
The best anyone did for this neighborhood was actor Brad Pitt, who founded the “Make-It-Right” organization. They built about 30 house. They used very famous architects who designed modern structures designed to withstand storms. They builders used modern building materials.
The new houses may have been designed to withstand a storm, but they weren’t designed to deal with our extreme heat and humidity. You have to live here to understand. Some are falling apart. One is in such bad condition that demolition permits have been filed in order to tear it down. Brad Pitt is being sued in order to force Make It Right to repair the houses.
And, so it goes.
The picture. They were made over time. For instance, the top picture was made a few weeks after the storm. The middle two were made a month or so later. The bottom picture was made maybe six months after that. I suppose the toilets attached to very strong plumbing will live on. I have no idea if the seat cover was there before the storm or added later. I prefer to think it rode out the storm.
I continue to return today. Usually once every three months. Beside the Make It Right homes, a few people have managed to return and rebuild. There are houses scattered here and there. Many properties are still as the storm left them. Worse for wear after rotting in the hot sun, and severe storms, over thirteen years. The rest of the neighborhood has returned to nature. Perhaps, that’s as it should be. This was always bottom land. Land so far below sea level that some streets leaked in the best of times.
And, so it goes.