Sunday, January 13, 2008

Leaving the Gulf Coast

Yesterday we began our departure from the Gulf Coast by getting up early to drive an hour from Pass Christian in Mississippi to New Orleans, where we would be flying out of to head back home to Baltimore. Once we managed to stuff all of our luggage into our vehicles using some of our Tetris playing skills, we thanked our generous hosts at Antioch House for providing a safe and warm place to stay throughout the week, and they sent us off with best wishes for a safe trip home and success in all of our future endeavors. As we made our way into New Orleans, we took the opportunity to make one more important stop before heading to the airport -- the Lower Ninth Ward. We parked our cars and started to walk through the neighborhood leading to the Lower Ninth Ward. We walked along quiet streets lined with structural frames of houses whose interiors were still completely gutted and stripped of remnants of a home where families once lived and shared memories. Most of the properties seemed abandoned, however, here and there we saw some individuals outside their houses attempting to repair and rebuild their homes. All houses still bore spray paint like brands that the rescuers after the storm made to indicate whether or not there were people or pets alive inside. Finally, we arrived at a the Lower Ninth Ward. It was easy to distinguish from the previous neighborhood because here there were no structures standing at all -- at most there were the remnants of a concrete stairway that used to lead into a house where now there was just grass, or one mangled piece of an iron gate that now guards an empty lot. It was hard to believe the storm was two and half years ago because it seems like this area had just been hit. We then got to an area full of pink tents (part of Brad Pitt's project), which indicated where houses once stood. We spoke to a gentleman starting to rebuild his mother's home who explained that rebuilding in the ninth ward would be happening soon thanks to Brad Pitt's project. Another gentleman living in a trailer where his house once stood explained to us his efforts to get more people to come back home to the ninth ward because rebuilding would be occurring, although so many people have been told otherwise to keep them from returning. This gentleman had lost his mother and 3 yr old granddaughter during the storm, indicated by a memorial outside his trailer. As we walked back to our cars to head to the airport, I looked around at the destitute land of pink tents hoping that soon those pink tents would be replaced with homes and families and that this would be a new beginning for the lower ninth ward.

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