Four Years On

So, long story. When we moved back to New Orleans after Katrina, I didn't really know what to do with myself. I was despondent, I was depressed, I was angry, I was antsy. To sum it all up, I was feeling a bit crazy. I had a nine-month old baby, a husband who worked non-stop, and a lot of time on my hands. I didn't know how to process what had happened to me, to my mother and stepfather, to absolutely everyone in my husband's family, to my friends, to my co-workers, to the people I knew in passing--to everyone on this whole damn coast.

I drove around--a lot--and I pulled my camera out--a lot--and I took a lot of pictures. Four months after the storm, eight months after the storm, one year after the storm....Last weekend, I drove around Lakeview and the Lower 9th for the first time in about a year. Some houses have been repaired by now; about the same amount haven't. I heard on the news today that there are some 40,000 houses abandoned to Katrina still standing in the greater New Orleans area. Forty. Thousand. Abandoned. Houses. Can you even wrap your head around that? I can't, and I've driven past the majority of them.

Here are the pictures I've taken over the past four years, supplemented with some pictures that I didn't take. In one of life's great ironies, my computer crashed around August of 2006, taking with it about 100 pictures I'd taken of the post-Katrina landscape, including the ones I'd taken of my own house, showing the damage done after it marinated in flood waters for two weeks. I had really wanted to save the pictures of the mold stalactites (or is it stalagmites? I never can remember) growing off of the clothes in our closet, the black mold on the walls, the couch on top of the coffee table, and the (shudder) four-month-old watermelon for posterity.

The first few shots are of my mother and stepfather's house in Bay St. Louis--their house was two stories, built 15 feet above ground, and they still got two feet of water on the second floor--that's a 32-foot storm surge, for those of you playing at home. They lived five miles inland from the beach. Other pictures include what remained of my brother Charles' memorial on the beach, Bay St. Louis City Hall, where I worked for four years, and the remains of Christ Episcopal Church, where my stepfather was rector for almost 20 years. Yet more pictures show what remained of Kenny's grandmother's house, the bar where Kenny and I met, the house where my mom and stepfather lived for 15 years (a hint--nothing to see but slabs), etc. Storm surge in Mississippi and massive levee failures in New Orleans--the outcomes were the same, and both have caused a great deal of pain and loss. Ah, good times.

I'll warn you--this slideshow is long at 20 minutes. Did I mention that I had a lot of time on my hands and that I took a lot of pictures? This is how I dealt with the losses of Katrina.

This area is home to so many people--generations upon generations have lived here. It's amazing how many people live within a 30-mile radius of every single member of their family. It's enough to inspire awe and jealousy for those of us from the outside world, whose family members live hundreds--if not thousands--of miles away--for those of us who have to budget trips home. Please stop saying that we got what we deserved for living here. Please stop saying that you're tired of your tax dollars being wasted on this place. This is home to a lot of people--a lot of good people.


Ashleigh said...

Wow. Your photos are amazing, and I'm in awe of what you've survived. You're a strong chick, Andie. It is shocking to see that there is still so much left to do four years out. Maybe you should send Obama the "We tear down houses" number from your picture. I think the picture that hit me the hardest was the "1 live dog barking" tag on the house. I'm going to tell myself that they let him out and didn't leave him trapped. Sorry for all you've endured, proud of you for your strength, amazed by your creative talent...as always. Love, Ash

Aimee said...

We also had a "great computer crash" that took lots of photos with it.

We went to the Quarter on Sat. I was a little surprised at how many tourists we overheard saying they had no idea what day it was, that someone had to tell them.