I drove around my battered neighborhood late this afternoon to get a sense of current conditions. I took some pictures, too--not that photographs could ever fully capture the spirit of New Orleans and its people. Not even the finest National Geographic photographers could do that.
In the post-Katrina world, where the enormity of the destruction of property and damage to community is so overwhelming, I get the feeling photographs convey even less. Still, I will pretend these pictures communicate some of what is going on here.
I begin with our sign. Vista Park: about 400 single family homes, 100% developed in 2005, 100% flooded late last year. The crepe myrtles and other landscaping are dead and gone. Only a metal sign remains.
Near the sign another house is smashed and taken away. There are a lot of demolitions going on these days. I do not know if the owners are planning to rebuild or not. I am simply grateful that they are doing something and not just letting their empty husk of a house languish.
It's the end of the day and the workers have already left. Notice the protective posture of the larger machine. Criminals and looters still lurk these streets, and that Bobcat is worth a lot of money in this town. My neighbor Malcolm saw this and said, "I didn't know they eat their young."
Another neighbor is in the process of repairing a house near the park. It appears they removed the roof to build a second floor. I've heard talk of people planning to raise their slab homes by disconnecting the existing framing from the slab and lifting it up to become the second floor. Most people are planning to put a garage or workshop on the lower level. This way they can reuse the existing slab and framing while building higher and safer.
But this is the first I've seen where the new construction seems to be aimed at just making the house larger, not higher. Several 2x12s are laid out for the floor system, but there is no sign of additional foundation work or framing on the first level to carry the new loads. I hope they know what they are doing!
Finally, what looks like a natural spring is really a busted water main. The story is that local electric and gas utility Entergy was digging here and hit a water main. They were nice enough to leave some barricades and tape.
Neighbors reported it as soon as it happened--ONE WEEK AGO TODAY. We can only assume that the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board is too busy to fix this. Meanwhile, what must be thousands of gallons of potable water is wasted each day. To add insult to injury, the water runs down the street and into the drains where it must then be pumped out to the lake. So we're paying for this water twice.
That's it in nutshell: damaged, demolished, under repair, waiting for repair. Signs of life returning here are all around. Depending on how you look at it, it might seem like a lot of activity or it might not be nearly enough.
You tell me.