I'm leaving New Orleans today and going back to my life in Syracuse. The people here have shared a part of their life story and the history of this city with me. I am grateful for their openness and honesty. What I am most struck by at the end of my stay here is how heartbroken the residents of the lower 9th ward are over what has happened in the aftermath of Katrina. One woman said to me that when she came back after a year of living elsewhere she may as well have been in a witness protection program because there was no one left who would have recognized her or known who she was at the time. She now lives in New Orleans East in a part of the neighborhood where many houses are still standing. Her block shows signs of life and rebuilding. The business areas, the nearby hospitals and medical complexes, the malls are not being rebuilt. There is now a "service desert." It now takes much longer to get to a hospital. Ms. Davis said, "God forbid you need an ambulance. When time if of the essense you don't want to be out here calling one."
She shared with me her frustration at how difficult it was to locate her family after Katrina, her horror at the way the communities around New Orleans responded to the plight of city residents, the surge of violence and frank racism that followed the storm. She shared her paintings of the Danzinger Bridge shooting with me, paintings which she hopes will help keep the memory of these horrors alive.