Sunday Morning, January 14, 2007
Today, I made my
first trip to Lakeview in New Orleans since before Katrina changed
that world. It has been nearly a year and a half
since the storm hit, and since the failings of the
governments we had faith in became apparent: The levees we
trusted our lives with had failed from bad engineering, bad
planning, but, no matter the reason, Lakeview, as we knew it
was over. It was not a super storm that topped the levees.
The levees simply failed. The Levee board, the Corps
of Engineers, the Sewer and Water Board that controlled the
pumping stations all failed as well.
I met my
friend Jeffery Smith who graciously rode with me while I surveyed
my old neighborhood.. We've been friends for several years,
having met through a couple of Photography Lists. He has
been photographing here and in the Ninth Ward, an equally
devastated neighborhood since the storm, and has met with other
photographers as a kind of guide. I didn't need a guide,
I needed a friend to be there with me and give me some support in
a time of grief.
Jeffery warned me that one of the things I would
see in Lakeview was more bulldozing than restoration. He was
A considerable number of homes are being worked on, some new
construction, and lots of houses are gutted, standing, waiting
for the promised "Road Home" funding to help rebuild. Meanwhile the FEMA
trailers are pervasive, and as you can see, are plumbed into the water
and waste systems for the long run. Right now, Lakeview
looks "Rode Home and put up wet."
I was stuck by the otherworldly feeling of all this.
Bulldozed lots, partially renovated homes, gutted homes, and some that
have not been touched since the eight to ten feet of water came and
sat for days before they finally were able to pump it out.
Today I saw people working on homes,
walking dogs, and planting flowers. This kid is playing in
the sand where his next door neighbor's house once stood.
This is a
common sight; a house waiting. According to the diagram no one
had to be rescued, and no bodies were found here. I thought the
bright green rye lawn, the pink house, and blue sky made for a Fujichrome
In 1982, Kathy and I bought our first home together. It was this
modest cottage. I had heard from a realtor that it was available for
a good price, but that there was an offer on it. I climbed under
and saw how well built it was, and decided that it would do just fine.
We offered a couple hundred dollars over the asking price and beat out
the other customer. We spent several years here, renovated
it as we could afford to. This was Adam's first home. I felt
affirmation today at my judgment those many years ago. The brick
house on the right and the frame house on the left had to be bulldozed.
This house has been gutted, but it could be restored. You can
see the high water mark just at mid-window level.
New Orleaneans often have an interesting sense of humor, even in black
times. This guy cammoed his FEMA Trailer, and along with a
totem pole, has placed a water level gauge in his front yard.
It is kind of
hard to characterize the way the place was, more a small town just
outside of a big city than anything else. Churches, schools,
banks, grocery stores; all the things you expect
from a community. The ambience was what drew me there,
and made me stay for 22 years of my 23 years in New Orleans. I
knew the manager of the drugstore, my church was in walking
distance, as were a number of really good restaurants. We
had a butcher store, where the guy would make you a stuffed
crown rib roast, just take it home and pop it in the oven.
There was a library, a great bakery, ice cream store, and for most of the
time I lived there, a movie theatre.
I am optimistic it will one day return and be a great
neighborhood once more. It won't be the same, but I really
hope they don't bulldoze all the character out of the