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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Personal New Orleans Account

LitTechNote: I received this recently via a professional colleague. It is important, I think, to be reminded that all is not well in Mississippi and Louisiana.
I wanted to give everyone an update on the “big easy”. I am still receiving your well-wishes and encouragement and it is (as always) so greatly appreciated. You have not heard from me in a while because I have been so busy putting my life and my home back together. Last week was my first week back in New Orleans! It has been both wonderful and horrifying. My first days home were filled with mops, brooms, bleach, disinfectant, scrubbers, etc. An empty, moist house unoccupied for six weeks is a science experiment (to say the least). Mold, fungus and all sorts of fun critters evolve. My husband was assigned the task of cleaning out the refrigerator that had rotten veal, melted popsicles, and other unidentifiable confections. And the smell is such a delight! I have met with FEMA administrators, insurance adjusters, car salesman, bank representatives, etc. You cannot imagine the headache! I was so delighted to arrive back in the city but my excitement faded fast. I had to call a friend last week to tell her her house was on fire. There was nothing I could do but watch her house burn. There is no 911 service here. You don’t call the fire department or the police. There are no services available and there is very little water pressure. When the fire had finally burned itself out, we donned our respirators and salvaged what we could. Another friend arrived home to a methamphetamine lab in her house. She called the police and they told her she just wasn’t a priority. And still, so many of my friends returned home to nothing or to houses that had been submerged in water for nearly four weeks. I have never had so much emotion… laughter, tears, exhaustion, fright, anger, denial…I’ve felt it all. New Orleans is not the city I left six weeks ago. There are only three restaurants open. (Can you imagine only three restaurants open in New Orleans?) We get mail only on Mondays. Garbage pick-up is unpredictable—some weeks there is pick-up other weeks there is not. The phones work sometimes. My cell phone beeps from messages on a six hour delay. There are only two schools open. Kids don’t live here anymore. You don’t go to the movies on the weekend. You don’t go out for ice cream. We don’t have a mall. There are still times when gas is unavailable. There are lines to enter the grocery store. Roofs line the streets--- I have already purchased three new tires from the nails and debris in the road. I am now adept at loading and shooting a gun—an absolute necessity in this city at this time. Homes and neighborhoods look like fraternity houses--- every lawn has couch on it! I wish I were making this stuff up but it is reality! Each day is getting better but I am realizing how slow this recovery is going to be. I long for the “old” New Orleans. Today I saw a bird. It was the first bird I had seen in the city. (Even the birds evacuated!) Little things like birds and butterflies bring delight; they remind me that life is coming back to New Orleans. Thanks, again, to all of you. I have so appreciated your thoughts, prayers, and encouragement.

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