When we had our house demolished and removed some months ago, its remains filled several trucks. A caravan of battered dump trucks were in turn filled, driven to some unknown grave site, emptied and returned.
They worked until there was nothing left--nothing but a smooth, slightly depressed parcel of land, about 60 by 120 feet.
Several of the neighboring houses have been similarly removed, summarily crushed and carted off until nothing remains but the shallow footprint of the excavated foundation.
First, the people were evacuated, and then the houses were extracted.
New Orleans post-Katrina is a canvass of minimalism. Whole streets like mine are still sparsely populated. Nearby businesses remain empty, flood-stained, untouched by man for more than 14 months. And every time a severely damaged building gets demolished, we celebrate the scene as a sign of progress.
Vista Park, my neighborhood, is now speckled with vacant property. The former continuous rows of brick-veneer slab-on-grade homes nestled under shady trees are now interrupted by flat, empty land.
And so to fill the shallow footprint, we had dirt placed on our lot this week. Trucks rumbled up near our FEMA travel trailer and dumped loads of clean brown sand onto our property. Perhaps they were some of the same trucks that had carted off the remains of our once beautiful home, a house reduced to the status of landfill by capricious nature.
How much to fill the void? “60 yards, dump and spread,” the work order said.
We’re not the only ones. Across from us and down the street, empty parcels have been filled with dirt. Not nearly enough to spare future buildings from another flood such as we saw with Hurricane Katrina—that is simply not practical. It is enough only to return the land to grade, to replace some of what was lost. Future houses will be elevated above the ground as required by code. Ours will be as high as that and then some.
Demolition was an important step, akin to a doctor cutting out diseased and damaged tissue. But bringing in fill is the first proactive step in rebuilding this city. This dirt is the new land we will build on, the new foundation of the city.
I came home from work the other day and marveled at the site of large piles of sand on my lot. “This is it,” I thought. “This is how we start to fill the void left by Katrina.”
We are rebuilding!