On our recent trip to New Orleans Fleur de lis and I spent some time driving through the Ninth Ward and adjacent areas. We were interested in seeing how the area has recovered since it was devastated by hurricane Katrina and the flooding in the days that followed. We saw house after house with the familiar spray painted markings denoting when it was searched in the days following Katrina. While so many houses were still abandoned and in disrepair many of those that had been redone and were being lived in still displayed the spray-painted reminder on the front of them as a way to never forget what took place there.
I tried to picture the houses here and the families whose lives now bear the scars of losing everything. Where were they now? Did they abandon New Orleans or were they living somewhere else in the city? Had they been back and stood in the spot where their houses once sat?
And I wondered how much it costs to buy an empty lot. What price can one put on a small, rectangular piece of land with so many stories it can never share? Stories of lives lived there and lives interrupted there. The laughter, the tears, the hopes, and dreams and fears. The nightmares and the secrets. Those alone are worth something.
While the devastation was devastating we were excited to see the work that Brad Pitt is doing in New Orleans. His organization, Make it Right, is committed to helping rebuild the Lower 9th Ward. The houses are green and designed to fit on the narrow lots where the original shotgun houses sat. Amazing!
What has happened in the years since Katrina is encouraging, but they have so far to go. So many empty houses. So many empty lots. And beautiful new houses are beginning to dot the landscape. Houses that are architecturally advanced and full of hope.
At the end of our self-guided tour I couldn’t help but think about all that I had seen. I remembered the pictures I had seen of the area in the weeks and months after Katrina. I remembered thinking that there was no way it could ever recover. But I was wrong. I’m so glad I was wrong. Life goes on where the old meets the new in the neighborhoods along Claiborne Avenue.