Dispatch from New Orleans: Needs of Lower 9th Ward put my own remodeling plans in perspective

Neworleanslowerninthward_2Following the builders show last month in Orlando, I drove over to New Orleans to check out the damage from Hurricane Katrina and the failure of the levees. I’d never been to New Orleans, but my husband had lived and worked there for 15 years.

Ever since the tragedy more than two years ago, I’ve wanted to get to New Orleans and show my support by dropping off some money (in exchange for hotel rooms and food, of course).

And the city did not disappoint. We stayed at an old hotel called Le Richelieu in the delightfully raunchy French Quarter, within walking distance of more restaurants and coffeehouses than we could possibly try. I walked on the levee along the Mississippi River to an Imax theater where I watched a movie on the disappearing bayous.

Our moods sank when we drove over to the Lower 9th Ward, which flooded with up to 10 feet of water when the levees failed.

Street after street after street of rotted and molding and destroyed vintage homes was hard for a home-lover like me to look at. Suddenly those heartbreaking images we saw on TV came to life. These were the houses where people died in their attics or suffered for days on their roofs. I couldn’t help but cry.

And while we expected to see throngs of workers erecting new houses, there seemed to be very little going on. A few houses were occupied, a few were being worked on, but most seemed to have been abandoned.

One highlight was seeing a U-Haul truck backing up to what looked like a newly renovated house with the owner on the front porch, cheering on the fellows who were hauling her stuff back into the house. It looked to me like she was back home. And it put my own little remodeling plans in perspective.

A lot of work needs to be done. Here are some groups doing it:

Historic Green (helping one neighborhood rebuild March 8 to 23)
Brad Pitt’s Make It Right Foundation
Global Green (Brad Pitt’s involved with this one)
Habitat for Humanity

5 Comments on Dispatch from New Orleans: Needs of Lower 9th Ward put my own remodeling plans in perspective

  1. RichW

    I wonder why the city isn’t being rebuilt on more appropriate land (its not like Louisiana has any shortage of it). Haven’t people already learned their lesson as to why its not very smart to live below sea level so close to the coast ? Either way I hope the displaced residents are able to settle back into homes of their own.

  2. Steve Salter

    I’m coming to New Orleans To help spread some of my good fortune. Hotel and meals ain’t much but some is better than none.

  3. Matt

    Thanks for coming to visit us in New Orleans. Rebuilding is a very slow process that is happening one house at a time. Some neighborhoods are rebuilding faster than others.
    The lower ninth ward will probably be the last neighborhood to recover because it was so devastated. The lower nine actually flooded twice. First when Katrina came and overtopped the levees down there, then just as it had dried out Rita came, and the strom surge from that storm blew through the temporary patches to the levee and flooded everyone again.
    On top of that many of the hoses in the lower nine were not in very good condition before the storm.
    Things are getting better, but it will be a long time before everything gets repaired.

  4. El Guapo

    I’ve been back to New Orleans maybe a half a dozen times since the levees broke. The ninth ward and Lakeview were hit equally hard. Chalmette (St. Bernard parish next door) got it worse, if you can believe it. Though I haven’t seen these areas since the storm, I imagine Lakeview is making the biggest comeback just because it was more affluent. However, all of that being said, I judge the recovery more by the areas that are more center of town and still took on 5-8 feet of water such as Gentilly and Mid City. I have seen steady (albeit slower than I’d like) progress. So, I’m hopeful. I also remind myself that this is a 10 year project and we’re not at year 3 yet. And if you are visiting, the Quarter, the Marigny (great music clubs just outside of the Quarter) and Uptown (think St. Charles Ave. street car and Tulane) escaped relatively unscathed due to the fact that the oldest parts of town were built on a natural levee.

  5. New Orleans News Ladder

    Thank you for dropping by New Orleans. I can cerainly appreciate your tears for the loss of life and property.However I wish that you would have mentioned why all of these homes were abandonded.
    They were flooded because the levees failed because they were built sub-standard by the US Army Corps of Engineers, not by hurricane Katrina which passed the city as a weak Cat 2 storm.
    It might be easy for you to overlook this, given the scale of devestation, until you realize that the Corps built your levees too. Do you understand the implication here?
    We survived Hurricane Katrina but still battle the Corps of Engineers as they remain in charge of reguilding those levees. They continue to operate without answering for their ghastly criminal mistakes.
    Please educate yourselves about the US Army Corps of Engineers. They are everywhere you want to be.
    Please return to New Orleans and properly educate yourself about the recovery from this crime.
    Spend a little time here, maybe catch a parade. Listen to wwoz.org…
    Thank you,
    editor~NO News Ladder