A nobody’s reflections on New Orleans, pt. 3

With a large sigh all I can say at this point is ‘wow’. There was a chance that we were not going to be able to take our tour through the city today because a rig overturned at the base of the 10 freeway twin-span bridge. It was carrying hydrochloric acid and spilled about 4700 gallons of the stuff. Thank God it didn’t go into any water and that it didn’t rain. The news says the driver was reaching for a bottle of water (taking his eyes off the road) and struck a cement median or something. This east to west running freeway is one of the main thoroughfares for parts of the city and was closed for over 15 hours. Fortunately our bus driver is a local and we were able to use surface streets. Our first stop was in the 9th Ward and yes, it is as desolate as you can imagine, and as alive as you cannot. We went past Fats Domino’s home and on in to the Ward, where we found a street that led right up to the water. The wall seemed to have been rebuilt, but to get out and walk where water moving at 200+mph had removed houses from foundations was humbling. There were empty lots where the debris that used to be homes had been removed. There was a marked home, empty, with a Jaguar parked in the drive.

As we left the particular neighborhood, I saw a lady whose house we’d taken pictures of. I spoke to her, telling her why we were there (a group from a California university who were meeting in New Orleans and came out to see how things were in the ward), and told her I hoped she didn’t mind that we were there. I asked how she was as she removed her cooler full of provisions for the day, to which she replied “I’m survivin’, baby.” I told her that there were people across the country praying, to which she replied “I know that’s right. If it weren’t for God, there would be no survival.” I left her and her dog to their day, considering what it must be like to live and survive in a neighborhood where many do not have power. I don’t know if her house had power.

We visited a number of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in New Orleans, including Southern University at New Orleans, Dillard and Xavier. We drove through Lakeview, which was devastated by the storm as well. This area is bordered by the 17th Street levee and the Lake Pontchartrain levee, both of which failed during the storm. Large homesites stand, some without houses and foundations or slabs only, some with houses in varying states of decay, and some in varying states of repair. Cindy, our colleague from Delgado Community College, had a home here. It was severely damaged and she was finally able to have it demolished and taken away. We stopped by its location, now an empty lot with a cross-shaped in-ground pool on it. The wall to the levee sits immediately behind her property. Many homes near Cindy’s have signs protesting the Army Corp’s efforts to use the eminent domain clause to take their property for the sake of reinforcing the levee wall.

We drove St. Charles Avenue, considered I would say to be the heart of the Garden District, with its plantation-style mansions and the historic Jesuit Tulane University, which reminded me of Princeton’s campus…

It is remarkable the differences between the marginalized neighborhoods (i.e., 9th Ward) and the majority neighborhoods (Lakeview), yet the level of devastation was equally apparent.

The water was no respecter of persons.

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008 Miscellaneous Updates

1 Comment to A nobody’s reflections on New Orleans, pt. 3

  • Tanya K says:

    It’s horrible that people are still trying to barely make it from the devastation of Katrina. I forget about it because of all the new devastation around the world that happens, like Iowa or other countries. It’s so sad.

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