I am jumping ahead because it has been an eventful week. I am finally back in New Orleans for the first time since Katrina.
I got in Sunday Morning, 10/23/2005. I returned to the home I was renting in the 9th ward. For those NOT from New Orleans, the national media has presented the 9th ward as the slum. That is not the case of all of the 9th ward. New Orleans neighborhoods are very different from anywhere in the country. Two blocks from a beautiful area, you could be a not so grand area. Just the way the city is/was after 200 years. The house I was living had been restored, built in 1807, just plain beautiful. Needless to say it will have to be restored again after the storm. I had already figured out that my personal effects were gone, still hard to see 15 years of personal and professional effects laying on the street in a mound of garbage. If anyone comes across a picture of me and Joe Sakic drinking champagne out of the Stanley Cup please let me know.
The rest of my day was spent trying to accept what I was seeing. Until your on the ground here, you really do not understand what the city is facing. One of the many things I have always loved about New Orleans proper is that it's a metropolitan area but had not become a concrete jungle. By that I mean, trees, grass, shrubs etc have always been in abundance. The first thing I noticed as I went around town was the brown. Everything is brown. Grass, trees, shrubs, things that should still be green are all dead. Salt water does that. The beauty of Esplanade Ave. of old has been replaced with brown trees, no grass and refridgerators everywhere. Cars parked on medians covered in a brown/gray haze from sitting in water for weeks. Is the ENTIRE city this way? No, but the majority of the city is. It's difficult to see but is also adds strength to me anyway because I will be here as the city rebounds too. Yes it will take years but those of us who love New Orleans will rebuild the city.
I was in St Bernard Parish for most of the week getting things moving at the radio station's transmitter/tower site. As a radio station, we lost 3 of our 4 towers plus the entire transmitter building, including equipment. I had seen pictures of the site after the storm but again until you are on the ground here, the destruction is just that, pictures. Walking around the site I was amazed and shocked at the damage. The building looked like a giant foot came from the sky and stepped on top of the structure. The 3 towers that went down were twisted like a ponytail in a young girls hair. The backup propane tank, which in my guess weighs over 500 lbs was found over 300 ft away. The roof of the building was found over 400 ft away. It is just amazing to me still the power and destruction that the storm caused.
I spent most of the week again in St Bernard Parish, Chalmette, Arabi and that area of New Orleans. I have friends and employees from the area so I know what the area was like BK- Before Katrina. That's a new phrase for locals now....BK, before Katrina. Sadly St Bernard Parish sustained some of the worst damage I have seen since I have been back. The East and the Lower 9th ward are basically ruined as well but I have not seen one home or business in "the parish" that will be able to be saved. Mud still cakes the majority of the area and as you walk it sounds like your crushing egg shells. I have lost nothing compared to the citizen's from these areas and at times I have felt guilty for worrying about the station and my personal loss when compared to these good people. Nothing can be said or done to make them feel complete again except time. I pray for all my fellow New Orleanians daily and hope all of our pain will someday be gone.
Even with all of the destruction, I have to say I am so happy to be home. The last 8 weeks of travel and living in hotels has been difficult but getting back to New Orleans, even with the state of the city, has been a life saver for me.
I have a letter from 2 Australian tourists that I will post next time. They were inside the Superdome for 5 days AK, After Katrina