Friday, August 29, 2008

Not Again.

New Orleans is often compared to a soup bowl. That being the case, my mother lives on the rim, just a block or so from the docks and the massive cranes which unload cargo from transport ships docked in the Mississippi River. Her New Orleans street runs from south to north through the city, from the relatively high ground closest to the Mississippi River on through to the central part of the city. As you drive north from my mother's end of the street, the elevation creeps lower and lower. By the time the street dead-ends into a quiet neighborhood, you have gone from the narrow section of the city where the houses stayed well above water after Katrina, to a part of town where the first floor was fully inundated -- or the entire house, in the case of one-story dwellings.

The floodwaters invaded homes along much of this street, from homes of modest means to homes of the wealthy. Like many New Orleans thoroughfares, her street changes masks as you go along -- on Mom's end, near the river, it is a pleasant and multi-ethnic mix of renters, retirees and young couples renovating their starter houses, then it moves on through an old area full of grand homes, and further on, where the serious inundation began, into an area sporting a mix of both modest and impressive homes.

My old high school is a few blocks past the end of that street, and the Interstate highway that takes me home to Baton Rouge is another mile past my high school. Each time I leave Mom and return home, I try to take a different street, to monitor progress since Katrina.

The part of town that stayed dry -- the rim of the bowl that follows the curve of the Mississippi River as you go around the lower edge of the city -- likewise runs the gamut of the social ladder, from some of the very wealthiest citizens to the poorest as you move from Audubon Park, past Uptown, through the Irish Channel and the Garden District, into the business district, and beyond into the French Quarter, the Marginy, and the Ninth Ward. Most of the damage on the uptown end was wind damage, and this is the part of town that is coming back the fastest. If you drive down Magazine Street, which is a mix of retail and residences following the curve of the Mississippi River from Audubon Park into downtown, you'd have to look hard for evidence that a hurricane ever happened.

South Broad Street is not so fortunate:

That's a once-prosperous business which lost its roof and windows and was flooded by Katrina.

Near Mom's house, some people are still living in FEMA trailers parked in their relative's driveways:

Some people have finished their repairs, like the house in the next photo, whose live oak tree still bears the dark-brown floodwater stain several feet up the trunk:

Some people have just gotten started on major repairs:

And some people have never come home.

It's still a great, vast, healing wound, this city of my birth, at once beautiful and devastated, despairing and full of hope.
And today, on this third anniversary of Katrina, the citizens of New Orleans, Mississippi and the Louisiana Gulf Coast wait anxiously once more as another monstrous storm develops in the Gulf, lurching inevitably northwestward, hell-bent on destroying somebody, somewhere.

Only weeks ago, my sister-in-law moved back into her home, two blocks from Katrina's first breach in the levee system. Earlier this summer, my nephew and his wife finally moved out of their FEMA trailer in Mississippi and into the brand-new home which replaced the one that Katrina's storm surge sucked into the Gulf of Mexico. This spring, with the house repaired and painted, my mother planted new rosebushes. Only several short weeks ago, the streetcars started running again.

And now this. Hurricane Gustav, a large and very dangerous storm -- with Hanna close behind, and a tidy row of newer tropical systems marching across the Atlantic like floats in some evil parade.

All the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast can do is look to the sky and plead, "not again."

Y'all think good thoughts our way, okay? Thanks.

Edited to add: I had wanted to load more photos but Blogger isn't cooperating tonight. I may try again tomorrow.

Labels: ,


At 9:47 AM, Blogger duraknit said...

Dez, honey, I've got my fingers crossed for all of you down there. When I read in the newspaper this week that the new levees still aren't adequate to hold up to a severe storm, I was baffled -- why, after all that happened, did they think that would be OK?

Elizabeth D

At 10:54 AM, Anonymous MicheleLB said...

Lots and lots of good thoughts coming your way. Y'all deserve a break on this one.

At 9:55 AM, Blogger Salena said...

Good luck to everyone. Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Lots of love to all of you down there.

At 3:12 PM, Anonymous Lisa E said...

Hey from Lisa in Mobile, I am thinking of you and all the animals and your mom. Keeping firece good energy for you and yours. Hang on! And take care.

At 6:36 PM, Blogger Dez Crawford said...

Thanks so much to you all for the good thoughts. I will post when I can, or ask Lisa Louie to post for me.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger southern gal said...

i have WBRZ streaming on my laptop with the Weather Channel and CNN going on the tv (PIP).

i may have left BR and NO awhile ago but my heart is in my throat at times like this and i will probably be up most of the night.

i moved out of NYC (after many years) the day Katrina hit and so i have a bittersweet reminder every year.

praying that your mother's house rides thru safely - surely she is home with you?

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Dez Crawford said...

Mom is here, of course! I'm signing off to go watch the weather. Hugs to all.

At 9:39 AM, Anonymous Gabrielle Jeromy said...

Yeah, it's been a long time since that disastrous hurricane. But I believe you and your neighbors have moved on fairly well and have now repaired your houses completely. I hope we can all learn from that challenge to prepare for any another storm.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Inmates in the Asylum since July 27, 2006: