by Shirley Brophy
Dr. Chuck McCabe replied after our New Orleans PFA meeting. He said, ''I enjoyed meeting you all in New Orleans. I am sending you pictures of my house when the water had receded somewhat. These were taken a couple of weeks after the hurricane and we were permitted to return to collect valuables. The view out my front door looks like a lake with my neighbor 's car submerged. When we opened our side door, we were greeted with a flood of water in our utility room.''
''A large tree in our front yard fell down and damaged the side of the building. In the picture I am standing on the stump. Despite our problems I consider myself more fortunate than many. At least we were able to live in our house, unlike many people who lost everything.''
''Let your friends know that we are open for tourism. We desperately need tourism to help fuel our recovery.''
Kathleen Reed Martello, Administrative Coordinator for the LSU School of Dentistry's Academy of Continuing Dental Education, (and wife of past PFA Chair Frank Martello), replied, ''Frank and I both want to thank 'all a' y'all' for hosting your gathering in New Orleans. We had a great time visiting with everyone and exchanging stories. I am glad that you had a chance to see things here, both good and bad. So much still falls into the category of must-be-seen-tobelieved. I am sending you a column from our newspaper, The New Orleans Times/Picayune, by their writer Chris Rose that sums up our feelings then. And it is all true, true, true. His recent book One Dead in the Attic expresses the emotions we all went through in this struggle.''
Editor Jim Brophy bought and read Chris Rose's book. Many books on Katrina were being sold everywhere in nearly every shop. And though Chris Rose's book was one of them, many places were sold out of them, attesting to its popularity. His work is a compilation of his columns from that Katrina summer day to about Christmas 2005. The emotions that thread through his columns certainly seem to mirror those of the population--flippancy, despair, anger, resolve, stress, worry--up and down the gamut. Mrs. Martello is absolutely correct. The New Orleans area, even today, must be seen to be believed. Pictures will only show you the destruction, like tombstones marking the path of an avenging angel. The dozens of horror stories we heard from all walks of life would put the scary movies to shame. The emotions were so intense--fear, struggle, anger--in surviving, and are embedded in everyone who was involved. and too numerous to put down in this publication. I sorted through hundreds of our pictures to select the best examples, narrowed the photos to about thirty, and then gave up. They all had something important to say. Every structure had a story to yell at you. Ruined neighborhoods had their spectres of Katrina washed or blown away. Downtown businesses were in the process of rebirth. But the French Quarter was in full swing. One could not really tell if their buildings were damaged or just ancient fac ̧ade.
The piles of debris at the curbs told you the current stage of repair for the neighborhood. First, there were the carpets, clothing, and loose household items. Then came the refrigerators, securely sealed from rotting food and disease so as not to attract wild animals, and other water-damaged appliances and furniture. Finally came the wall board, plaster, and replaced wood. You knew you were going to be all right when you saw the large empty boxes that once covered the new appliances and furniture. The residents were staying. New Orleans was giving birth.
Even with all that, we cannot convey the man-made, senseless, daily struggles that go on as you read this. We were in the Mayor 's Office several times and witnessed angry homeowners just trying to get a building permit to start their lives over again. And the lines at the FEMA Office down the street were filled with residents begging for any help. We are not talking about the looters and criminals that brought national dishonor to their city's heritage. We are relating to you about simple, middle-class people of all kinds, colors, and ages that are reaching out desperately, 14 months later, for some understanding to cut the red tape bureaucracy. What could not be obtained at City Hall was brought to FEMA even if neither could solve a person's problem. But where do you go? How do you sort out the ruling governments?
The experiences of seeing the city, so many months after the disaster, still gasping for life and normalcy, leaves one in awe. So much still needs to be done to restore the city and its reputation.