Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Report From The Field: There Is More Work To Be Done

The World's Best Bleeding Heart Attorney and I had the opportunity to make use of a very generous offer from a family member:  use of her condo in the French Quarter.  We had not been to New Orleans since May of 2000, when we went there to exchange vows and rings.  In addition to having wonderful food, we did a lot of walking and a lot of driving.  We wanted to visit the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the areas most hard-hit by Hurricane Katrina.  Our desire to visit there was two-fold:  we wanted to see how much progress had been made, and we wanted to see the neighborhood where our Older Daughter worked building houses with Habitat for Humanity over her Spring Breaks during her undergraduate career at Excellent Women's College.  We have always been proud of her desire to help others, and her willingness to work hard.
What we found in the Ninth Ward was disheartening.  Progress has been made, undoubtedly.  Look at these houses.

But there is still SO much devastation.  So many houses that are completely demolished.  Where have the people gone?  What happened to them, and what are their stories?  And mostly, mostly...How is it possible that this kind of nightmare can take place in the United States, and almost six years later, the houses are still like this:

I have heard it said that perhaps these houses looked like this beforehand, or that it is the result of the "rampant looting" that took place in New Orleans after the storm.  I have heard people compare how the Japanese people reacted after their recent earthquake and tsunami to the people in the poor sections of New Orleans.  Words like "honor" and "courage" are used to describe the people in Japan, and words like "thugs" and "savages" describing the Americans.   I have also heard accounts from people who were there, in New Orleans, during and after Katrina.  People who worked in hospitals and rebuilding neighborhoods, people who rescued strangers from rushing water by boat, and helped airlift people from their roofs.  These people, not the armchair sociologists, have given accounts of courage, risk-taking, love, and cooperation that far outnumber the crimes.  As a country, we should be ashamed that this is the way one of the most beautiful cities in our nation still looks, six years hence.