05 April 2010

New Orleans, part 6

The. Lower. Ninth. Ward.  

For those of you not quite familiar, the lower ninth ward was the neighborhood most devastated by Katrina.  I'm not expert on the devastation, but even before the storm, this was one of the poorest neighborhoods.  I was really curious to see the state of this part of the city, but it felt too voyeuristic and I just didn't feel comfortable going and being a tourist in people's devastation.  On our last day in town, we ended up heading over there with an old friend of mine who lives in New Orleans and does a lot of work in the lower ninth.  He knows folks who live there and he drove us over there and showed us around.  

We got to check out some of the Make It Right homes (Brad Pitt's project) and met a woman who lives in one.  It's in the same spot where she lived pre-Katrina and a few of her neighbors who now live in Make It Right houses are her same neighbors from before.  She's lived there for over twenty years and aside from those few neighbors who came back, she has no idea where her other neighbors are.  I didn't ask, but I got the impression that she doesn't even know if some of them are alive or not.  We got pretty depressed about this separating of communities and neighbors, among the rest of the tragedy.  

Most of the homes in the lower ninth still haven't been rebuilt and much of the neighborhood is just empty lots with foundations.  Some homes are still standing, with the writing on the outside of the houses.  My friend explained the notations- name of the crew that inspected the house, date of inspection, number of deceased people found inside, and number of pets.  We noticed that the date of inspection was weeks after the storm.  

All in all, seeing the lower ninth was quite a sobering experience.  I didn't really know what to expect when we went there.  I'd seen the photos, I'd read about the damage, I'd watched the news.  But the thing is, it's not really on the news anymore.  I was sort of hoping that I might have something really profound to say about seeing something so terrible, but in all honesty, I don't.  All I can say is that it was truly depressing to see how much is still left to be done.  And thinking about all those families who lost their homes--and many of those homes had been in the family for generations--and are now living in completely foreign communities somewhere else across the country, well, it makes me really sad.  And makes me feel really grateful for my own home, and the wonderful community that I've found here and hope to grow in for years. 

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