But now comes a big one. Back in September, Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans. He issued a second such order a few weeks later when a second hurricane threatened our waterlogged city. And he declared the first universal curfew for the city of New Orleans in my 44-year lifetime.
Today's big announcement is this: residents of all areas west of the Industrial Canal are now free to return to their homes. Permanently, if we choose.
As The Times-Picayune reported:
That means people can officially reoccupy their homes in Gentilly, Lakeview, the Upper 9th Ward and other areas in four ZIP codes: 70122 and 70124, as well as parts of 70117 and 70126. The rest of the city west of the Industrial Canal was already open for returnees to stay.
Yep, 70122, that's my neighborhood! That means I now have official permission to not just visit my devastated home during daylight hours, I can now sleep there if I want to.
Not that I would want to.
Why would I want to sleep there, in a house that was filled almost to the ceiling with putrid flood water for about two weeks? Why would I want to sleep there, in a house that is still littered with soggy and shattered furniture, popped and puckered floors, and a kitchen made foul by an overturned refrigerator and a collapsed pantry of rotting food? Why would I want to sleep there, in a house with no gas, no electricity, no sewerage, and water pressure so low that we are warned it could be difficult to fight a fire if one occurs? Why would I want to sleep there, in a house that lies in the shadow of the shattered London Avenue Outfall Canal, whose two rocky patches are still leaking into the adjacent streets?
Officially, my neighbors and I have permission to go home. But no one in his right mind will.
Unless and until we fix those levees, restore basic utilities, and get some assurance that at least a few neighbors will join us there, no one in his right mind will return.
Heck, FEMA won't even put a travel trailer on my street until we get electricity and sewer service back online.
So although today, December 23, 2005, is the official day I am permitted to go home, I think it will be many months before I am able to go home.
Tags: New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina