Today is the 10 month anniversary of Katrina, and I'm tired.
I'm tired of seeing and hearing and smelling and experiencing signs of devastation every single hour of every single day. I'm tired of not being able to rely on mail delivery or phone or electricity. I'm tired of waiting on my government representatives to come up with a plan. I'm tired of grandstanding asshole politicians who claim that if Katrina happened in their part of the country, people would pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get on with their lives and not depend on government handouts. I'm tired of worrying about the strength of the levees. I'm tired of increased violent crime, and seeing armed national guard troops patrol the streets. I'm also tired of meetings. I've gotten pretty politically active in my Mid-City neighborhood to make sure that we residents have a say in the way that our neighborhood is rebuilt. But that means I don't get to see my children as often as I would like, or just relax. And furthermore, I often lose all perspective of what constitutes "normal." I've acclimated to living in a wasteland of a city. I temporarily regain perspective when outsiders visit. As I take them on the grim tour, their facial expressions of astonishment alone remind me that what happened in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast is awesome, unprecedented, abnormal and damn depressing. But instead of going on and on about how little and how much has happened in the past 10 months, I want to share with you what my life is like in New Orleans these days through three pictures.
The ubiquitous waterline... I see it everyday as I bike to work. I see it on every single building, on every car that has sat at the same place for 10 months. It causes my mind to flashback to last September when I was living in this flooded city, and replay all the horrible and beautiful things that I witnessed. I've driven 90 miles from where the 17th street canal broke (which is near my house) to the east and not once left a neighborhood that didn't flood. Some worse than others of course. The waterline bears witness to how bad the damage. But not always. Some people didn't survive even when the waterline marks were a "mere" two feet.
This is a classroom inside Thurgood Marshall Middle School. We used to enjoy hearing their marching band as they paraded through the neighborhood streets in preparation for Mardi Gras. The dogs sure hated it though. But now the school is silent. Katrina damaged the roof of this beautiful 100-year-old building. It hasn't been fixed since. Last Sunday a group of us on the Mid-City Education Committee went into the school to document its status. None of the doors were locked, and except for the many signs of vandalism, it looked like nothing been touched in the past 10 months. The school's former Assistant Principal estimated that there was about $200,000 worth of equipment inside the building, including hundreds of new computers, textbooks, and musical instruments. This school was taken over by the state of Louisiana before Katrina, and it seems that they need some help. We're trying to at least get the building secure and to fix the roof. Then we'll try to open the school as soon as we can. We're trying to get the community more involved in our neighborhood schools and the schools more involved in the communities. We want to do our part to make the rebuilt New Orleans better than it was before.
I don't hate much, but at the moment I do hate Allstate. We're involved in a lengthy poker game that they initiated. To the right you can see my neighbor's yellow house. For reasons that only he and God know, his house hasn't been touched since the storm. I've heard rumor that he didn't have flood insurance. Most people in my neighborhood were told they didn't need it, as this part of Mid-City had never flooded before. Even during Hurricane Betsy we were dry. Our house is the leaning pink one to the left. The winds of Katrina racked our house. I was here and experienced the whole thing. But Allstate says that I am a liar. Allstate hired Haag Engineering, and they said it wasn't windy enough during Katrina to make a house lean. So we hired Homepaje Structural and their engineer, of course, said that the winds of Katrina racked our house. So I filed for arbitration, where a third party hears both cases. It isn't binding, but time is running out. We need to file suit against Allstate by the one year anniversary of Katrina. Fighting Allstate, and living in a racked house in a devastated neighborhood is not something that I would recommend to anyone. But at the same time, it has given my life a new and more important purpose.