Tuesday, August 01, 2006


The house finally came down this week.

As I’ve often said, our house has been dead a long time—it just now finally fell down.

Happier times in the Vista Park neighborhood of New Orleans

This beautiful house in Vista Park drowned in August of last year when floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina filled New Orleans. As if we weren’t already convinced to demolish what remained, a fire did even more damage to the structure a few months later.

We’ve been looking forward to the demolition for several months. When the big day finally came, I had to be at work so my Darling Wife and Precious Daughter had to be witnesses for the family.

The morning started off with a loud rumble as the huge backhoe rolled up our driveway and lined up to start smashing the house from the front left corner. My Darling Wife, who manages to see adventure in everything we do nowadays, asked if she could take a few swipes at the condemned structure herself.

Working the big machine

Amazingly, the equipment operator, an amiable fellow with a southern twang, agreed. My Darling Wife, who had never operated any equipment more sophisticated than a passenger vehicle with manual transmission, climbed the tracks of the huge machine and settled into the operator’s seat in the glass-enclosed cab. The operator stood nearby and tutored the novice mother in the fine art of controlling the 30,000-pound-capacity arm.

Demolition begins in the Vista Park neighborhood of New Orleans

CRASH! As if she had been doing this for years, my Darling Wife brought the massive claw of the backhoe down on the roof of our house, crashing through the roof and ceiling of the dining room. She took two or three swipes before she handed over the controls—to our Precious Daughter!

Getting a little help

Who knew a 10-year-old could operate a track backhoe?

But just as efficiently as her mom had a moment before, and with the help of the operator standing nearby, our Precious Daughter raised and dropped the hammer-like arm of the backhoe down on the house as easily as she may have swatted a bug.

Just another day in the life for us in New Orleans, I suppose.

Once the fun had been had, the professional operator took over and made short order of the heavily damaged house. Working deliberately and methodically, the backhoe was soon crawling on top of a pile of wood and brick as he made his way toward the back of the house.

Demolition of our house in New Orleans, July 2006

A train of trucks began to arrive to cart off the debris. For two days, they worked at the smashing and hauling, and when that was done, they started tearing out the slab.

Large chunks of concrete were wrested from the foundation as rebar stretches with the futility of cheese clinging to the pie. The operator carefully piled up the large blocks of manmade rock, then proceeded to break them into more manageable hunks. He did this not with the force of the backhoe, but with good-ole gravity. Grasping one of the blocks in the jaw of the machine, he raised it high into the air—perhaps 20 feet—and dropped it on top of the other pieces. It slammed and spattered flakes of concrete with a deep “Thud!”

Demolition of what Hurricane Katrina destroyed in New Orleans, July 2006

When I arrived home that first evening, I was smitten with sadness at the sight of a heap of rubble where my house had stood that morning. Sure, this is what we wanted, what we had been planning and looking forward to for some time. But it was odd and a bit unsettling to look into a pile of debris and recognize things that were once cherished possessions. Books that had belonged to my Precious Daughter, pots and some dishes, throw pillows, even an old vinyl single by “The Rock-a-Byes,” a local band that is all but forgotten.

Our cat Smudge investigates the remains of our house near the London Avenue Canal in New Orleans

I remind myself of the adage, “You have to break a few eggs if you want to make an omelet.” I remind myself that this is the sound and sight of progress in New Orleans today. I remind myself that this house, as wonderful as it was, was just a shelter from the elements.

New Orleans begins rebuilding by demolisioning what remained following Hurricane Katrina, July 2006

Later, I feel better sitting in the trailer, listening to my Precious Daughter singing to her favorite songs on the radio. As fond as I was of those things we lost, what is most important to us remains.


it's me said...

another powerful picture of what it takes to stay in new orleans--

dw and precious daughter are terrific ladies!

Anonymous said...

I have to admit to a tear or two as I read this entry. After that was out of the way, I resolved to come to visit. I now have a whole lot of new memories just waiting to be made in your soon-to-be-built new house. This is no empty threat! Let me know when I can come over with the chocolate chip cookies!
I love you guys!

Laurie said...

I love that the women-folk helped tear down the house. Good therapy!

Mr. Clio said...

Unbelievable post, and the pictures are perfectly supportive of the text.

As I've said before, keep on keepin' on.

GentillyGirl said...

Thank the Goddess that we have folks like you and your family here!

Sinn fein!

dillyberto said...

Bless you and your family, brother.

You strength is a powerful influence on the rest of us.

Maitri said...

Great attitude, Tim. A shelter from the elements - that's what my mom told us when we lost our house a long time ago.


judyb said...

You and your family are to be admired! Thanks for sharing

Sophmom said...

Great telling of the final stage of preparations for building anew.

Of course, since I work at the KnockingS#*!DownCo (not sure if this is a cussing or no cussing blog;), this sort of activity is all in a day's work for me.

It was very nice of the operator to let the Ladies help (although we wouldn't want to mention that to OSHA, 'k -- ssshhh!). I'm sure there was some therapeutic value for them in the activity. It reminds me of the time the urologist let me fire the lithotripsy gun at The Husband's kidneys... but that's a different story altogether.

Seriously, Tim, congratulations on this step. I hope that the family, cats included (their story brought tears to my eyes) are happily settled into the travel trailer and that work towards building, rather than tearing down, will begin in earnest soon.


Ann said...

Good luck building your new house! Keep moving forward.

Schroeder said...

Tim. Powerful stuff. Please say yes to recording a reading for WTUL's Community Gumbo.

schroeder915 at yahoo dot com

mick said...

Just found your blog and have been reading for hours. Your story is amazing. Hope you don't mind a mention at Blogcitycental.blogspot.com!

God bless!

faeriebell said...

I haven't been by this blog in months and was very happy to see that you're on your way to rebuilding! Congrats on the demolition!