Jesus, please come soon   Leave a comment

On Wednesday we worked on “our” house in the morning, had a tour
with John Pecoul in the afternoon, then dinner served by St. Matthews and a
slide show in the evening.

At the house Heinz, Dan, and Michael took a brand new attic
ladder out of its box and proceeded to mount it into the ceiling in the room
opposite of the living room. They got it partly done in the four or so hours
that we had, even without reading the instructions. (Amazing!) Kathe, Patsy,
and Sylvia again went off-site to spray, for termites this time. In their
drives to get keys or one thing and another, they have seen many parts of the
city. Bonnie and Ardith helped collect trash, scrap lumber and siding, nails,
and other unusable stuff and pile it into a pick-up truck. Then Bonnie went off
with Rick to unload the truck into a dumpster, and Ardith organized the tools
inside the house. Amy, Makenda, Katherine, and Nancy continued to prep the
front side of the house. Ruth Ann painted another coat of the avocado green on
the windowless side of the house. Susan climbed a tall extension ladder to
scrape the old blue paint off of a section of the windowless side. Barbara
oversaw all of the on-site work and managed to get us over, under, around, and
through numerous hurdles and decisions.

We were more tired today, and ready to quit at noon. Back to
St. Matthews for sandwiches and showers, then we gathered at 1:30 for a talk
and tour by John. Working with maps in the church lobby, he talked about how
the flooding happened. Some 1,300 – 1,400 people lost their lives. Some people were never accounted for. Many houses still have the X marks of the rescue teams. The first thing that was done was to clear the streets so vehicles could get through to take away the bodies. Once the pumps were turned on, the city was pumped dry in six weeks, except for the Lower 9th Ward, where the pumps were not functional. Many of the dead were in that area and in Lake View. Most of the dead were over 65 or disabled. Prior to Katrina, 60% of the families in the Lower 9th were home owners. They were school teachers, government workers, postal workers, dock workers. They had a strong sense of community.

John said that people already know how to manage the wetlands better. The wetlands could mitigate the impact of another storm, but funding is not
available, and the political decisions have not been made, to make the
substantive changes that are needed. The Army Corps of Engineers has done minimal, short-term fixes of the levies. “Make wetlands, not war” is a bumper
sticker that we saw.

Using two vans and a walkie-talkie, we toured various areas.
Parts of the city lie 15 feet above sea level, and parts lie 15 feet below sea
level. It is such a subtle difference that we cannot feel it as we are driving
around. In some areas the water stayed 2-3 feet high, in other areas 6-8 feet,
in other areas 10 feet high or more – for weeks. The damage was more or less
severe, depending on how high your ground was and how high off the ground your
house was. On many houses and businesses we could see the water line. Some
places were flooded twice and you could see both lines. The original settlers
built on high ground near the river, and built their houses high off the
ground. As levees were built and the river more managed, houses were built
closer to the ground.

The storm was in late August 2005. Rick was back into the
city in March or April 2006 – eight months later. What was it like? There was no traffic on the
roads. There were no grocery stores open. There were no children. It was like a
war zone.

We drove to the area of the Lower 9th Ward where
Common Ground Relief has an office. When Susan, Sylvia, Amy, Katherine, and Makenda
were here last year, they were impressed by the work of this group. We heard
about even more of the things that they are doing now: rebuilding, community
gardens, connections with reputable contractors, connections with inspectors,
with lawyers. Pastor Susan gave Common Ground a check for $4,300 (money from our fund-raising dinner at Bucci’s in Emeryville) to help support their
work. Dan talked to a man, who shook our hands and thanked us. 

As we drove through
the most devastated area, we could see signs of renewed life. Habitat for
Humanity is building a Musician’s Village. More homes are there than there were
last year. Someone is sitting in a rocking chair on her porch. Brown-eyed
Susans are blooming in the many empty lots. People, equipment, and piles of sand are
ready to re-build a street. A contest was held to design affordable, safe
housing and we drove by a multi-tiered model with solar panels in the roof and
outdoor decks that has been built from one of the five winning designs. Most of the chaos has been cleared away. A school has re-opened, but the community center across the street from the school remains closed. 

As we drove away, we noticed graffiti on the side of an
abandoned house: “Jesus, please come soon.”

* * * * * 

In the evening, people from St. Matthews made us a good red
beans and rice dinner, and sat with us for conversation. Thank you! Then Pastor Fred talked with us, and we watched a slide show put together by Susan, one of
the church members. She was in charge of an AIDS ward, and was here through
the storm. She had taken thousands of pictures, and set some of them into a slide show,
with music. One section was of the statues of the Madonna. Some were stained
with   water lines. One had a fan-shaped shell behind her, reminding me of the famous painting of Venus arising from the sea. And one had broken off at
the head, and her head had been re-placed, with mud and muck under her chin, like a
heavy necklace.

Signing off — Bonnie


Posted May 8, 2008 by NOLA-er in Uncategorized

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