New Orleans- Coming Up on the Fourth Anniversary of Katrina
New Orleans is still a city very much in the process of rebuilding itself. My trip to Jazz Fest was the third time I’ve visited since the Flood. They’re coming up on the fourth anniversary this summer. There’s definitely been progress, but I also felt a real heaviness across the city this time around.
The people who had quick insurance payments have rebuilt, their houses are beautiful-freshly painted, new tile floors, granite counters, new furniture, carpeting, big flat screen T.V.’s. Those without the quick insurance payments, or any insurance at all, are still in limbo – at best. The Road Home program has been dissolved, and many neighborhoods, including the one where I was born and spent my early childhood, are still fairly deserted. And everyone is anxious about the hurricane season which begins in just a couple of weeks. “It snowed in December” my cousin Linda said. “ It snowed in December the year of Katrina, too.”
Monique called on one of my last days in New Orleans. I told her that this had not been a particularly comfortable trip for me.
“I gathered that” she said.
There’s been personal stuff, but it hasn’t been just that. There was a negative vibe across the city, and it seem to have settled in. I picked it up in those I visited with – Raoul, Uncle Roy, Marlene. I said to Monique that my first visit after Katrina had felt celebratory. It was the first post – Katrina Mardi Gras. People were beginning to return, there was a sense of homecoming, and everyone was upbeat. When I visited a year later, reality had settled in, people had hit the hard task of rebuilding, and all the problems that came with it. I could feel it everywhere. I remember saying that to Deb Cotton at the time. She responded, “Yes, I just have to take frequent trips out of the city.”
“Yeah, it just goes that way here”, Monique said. “I remember it being that way in 1989, too, with the oil bust.” She laid blame on the mayor currently, though, “A mayor is supposed to reassure the city. It’s his job.” “One more year” Lloyd said.
But the day after my conversation with Monique was Cinco de Mayo, and even though it has nothing to do with New Orleans, the city is working itself up to celebrate it. “Any excuse for a party” Marlene said.