Friday, April 9, 2010

The Lower 9th Ward

Today I went farther into the lower 9th ward, where the members of the Bread of Life Church suggested. I crossed the canal. I followed Flood Street down passed the Candy Lady's store. There was a rise of land between the water and the neighborhood. You can see that the houses are below the level of the water. On many houses there's an "x" with the date the house was inspected, the name of the agency, the number of people found, dead or alive, and the number of animals too.

Mostly, I saw a lot of zeros, but occasionally, there were things like "2 cats", or "1 dog." I met two women who moved back just last year. One spent several years in Houston, another in Illinois. The one who went to Illinois said she liked it up north, even with the cold. She was able to find a job she said, and get away from the demands of her extented family, demands that started up as soon as she got on the train heading south last year. She thought of going back, turning that train right back around.

She'd never been out of the state of Louisiana before that storm. She was 42 before sheleft her birth state, never been farther than Batan Rouge before Katrina. She said the neighborhood is coming back. Last year she said it was really quiet, not no so quiet. She feels safe, she says. She likes it quiet. She told me the hardest hit area is on the other side of St Claude, where there's entire blocks where only the slabs are left to show where the houses were. WHere she lives, there's still a lot of houses, little, big, and a lot of that wrought iron, as old as the houses themselves. We spent a long time talking about shotgun houes, the skinny little houses that seem to be the norm here. They are narrower than the shotgun houses in Syracuse, 8, 9 feet wide, just big enough for a bed, and a breeze to blow through.

What has been left behind in these houses besides the water marks half way up the walls, includes everthing from photographs to dishes, suitcases to busted furniture. In some cases it's all gone, the walls are out, but then in and behind the walls there are little stashes of things like a child's toy or book, the old fireplaces that were walled over by new kitchens or bricked up when the times changed.

The boards revealed by the downed lath and plaster are wide and turmite eaten in places. The carpenters I ate dinner with said they were probably alder or poplar as we call it in New York. The bones of the houses still suggest hope of rebuilding. There are trucks everywhere. Home Depot, independent contractors, local and international agencies. There was a community garden, a community center, a health center. There are realtors too, putting up signs, showing people around. Like the two women I met today, there are a lot of families coming back, one at a time, and then in pairs and clusters.

1 comment:

  1. You've gotten some wonderful pictures, Sarah. I tend to like the ones taken inside, with all the different light....but I also love your portraits.