Monday, October 24, 2005

New Orleans Ninth Ward Sealed

To some, the sealing off of the Ninth Ward might not seem such a big thing. But, for those people whose homes were there, and damaged in Katrina, it is a big deal! They want to get in and assess the damage. Residents of the southern portion were allowed to return last week and then leave. But, one man and his insurance agent tried to get into the Ninth Ward to assess his Mother’s property, and they were turned away. They were told they need a councilman to go in with them, but nobody was there to go.

Keith Calhoun, a photographer and has documented Ninth Ward for years, says that St. Bernard parish is adjacent to Ninth Ward and in just as bad of shape. Yet, the St.Bernard residents were allowed to go back to their homes. Calhoun was born in Ninth Ward, sort of a ‘little town’ within the town of New Orleans. It is a community of what they call ‘shot gun’ houses, one and two stories, all colors, a factory and houses of worship.

Willie Calhoun, Keith’s Dad, remembers when his father built their brick home around 1953, or 1954. Friends helped his dad lay the bricks. And, his parents had lived there ever since. But, when his Mother saw the house, a four-bedroom structure with iron grillwork, she cried, and realized she would never live in that house again.

Another resident of Ninth parish, Mr. Reddick, saved the numbers to his home, because he says he will rebuild. He has re-settled his family in Houston, but came back to New Orleans to work. He looks forward to the summertime when he can move his ‘queen bee’ (his Mother) back to her new home in New Orleans. She is in Houston and ready to come home!

For Mr. Calhoun and the residents of Ninth Ward, there are many questions such as ‘Will we be able to rebuild?’ When will we be able to come back and build?’ Will they rebuild the levee strong enough to protect us?’ He has heard that their neighborhood is ‘expendable’, and he takes exception to that comment, since he’s lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years. And, he has never filed a claim for flooding until now. He tried to get a phone call through to his ‘so-called bosom buddy’ – a childhood friend – and the president of City Council, but was told he was too busy to talk. I’m sure these people in Ninth Ward are afraid they will never know this place as home again, and that can certainly be disheartening as well as depressing!

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