Monday, February 18, 2008

Letter from New Orleans

Casa Dietrich

Because of my recent Gulf Coast posts, I wanted to give you the perspective from someone who survived Katrina, aka "The Thing". I asked two of my New Orleanian (Orleanean?) friends, John and Linda Dietrich, to write about their thoughts, post-The Thing.

What Linda sent me was beautiful, touching, and amazing. I remember speaking to her while they were relocated in Houston. She was near tears all the time and there wasn't anything I could do to help. Reading this, I realize I don't ask enough about how's it going, and I am extremely sorry for that. I hope that this letter was somehow cathartic for her and John.

On SHELTER, I will only post the parts pertaining to my questions about the rebuilding of New Orleans' damaged areas. However, I strongly suggest you read the whole letter here, on my other blog. These are her words.

Letter from New Orleans:

I live in what local writer Chris Rose likes to call "the sliver by the river" or "the isle of denial.” I live Uptown in the Irish Channel. My neighborhood didn't flood. Wind damage only. Our house; my husband's and mine, was still standing after the storm. It had blown off it's piers on one side, but didn't break. We lost some wood siding, part of our fence, a washer and dryer, and one refrigerator.

There are still people living in FEMA trailers. People are still waiting to figure out how to rebuild and with what money. For all the billions of dollars poured into NOLA, it is definitely going to take more.

There are also plenty of abandoned houses, overgrown lots, and homeless people. Changes will be made.
Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was NOLA. Brad Pitt started the "Pink House" campaign. I think it's great and it is going to make a difference. Brad's houses will be much more modern, but with a nod to traditional New Orleans homes. Those places are gone in the Ninth ward and St. Bernard. Some can be salvaged, some cannot. I don't see any problem with modernizing some of the architecture here. It has always been an amalgam of styles, as people added on to the homes they bought. My house is 165 years old in the front and 120 in the back. The inside is brand new. Times change. This city will always preserve its history, but it will also continue to look towards the future.

I want to see the neighborhoods rebuilt with the wisdom of lessons learned. We need to have the growth of the populace keep pace with the growth of the infrastructure. I WANT THE DUTCH TO BUILD OUR LEVEES!! I want a real levee system. Not one made out of tin cans. KATRINA DID NOT DESTROY NEW ORLEANS! BAD ENGINEERING DID! I want wetland restoration to take priority. I want the American government to realize how important this city is to the rest of the country. America needs our port. The Mid-west is crippled without it. I want our oil related tax revenues back. We could afford to rebuild ourselves. I don't know which political genius gave that up, or what he got for it, but I hope his house flooded.

This has turned into a rant. It's hard to talk about the way you feel without getting overly emotional. I still can't watch clips of Katrina's aftermath without feeling as if my heart will literally shatter into a million pieces. Sometimes, I can't even drive by houses with water lines still on them without feeling slightly defeated. Other days, when the sun is shining, and I see a few houses sitting repaired and pristine among the wreckage, I feel the infinite joy of watching the miracle of birth and the resilience of the human spirit and know that everything will be just fine. It's only going to take time.


The Dietrichs

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