Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New Orleans: A Hopeful Pictorial

We had the chance last week to bike-ride in Faubourg Marigny, Faubourg Treme, and the Ninth Ward, a journey through post-Katrina New Orleans very different from what tourists typically see in the French Quarter.  Friends asked, "Is the city recovering?"  My best answer is, "Depends on where you are looking."

There are still plenty of abandoned houses with the "FEMA X" painted on their fronts, indicating the residence had been checked for survivors by the National Guard or the local Fire or Police departments.  The upper portion of the "X" includes the date (usually a few weeks after the storm), to the left the Guard unit acronym, and at the bottom the number of deceased found in the home.  A "NE" meant no entry was required.  Many times a cat or dog was listed as deceased.

Some of the symbols became famous, including the one that inspired Chris Rose of the Times-Picayune to write 1 Dead in Attic.  Other "X's" have been altered with time, including some with the words "Merry" on top and "mas" on the bottom, converting a sign of misery and loss into one of joy at the holidays.

At the same time, there were a number of houses that had been restored and repainted in bright, New Orleans colors--a sign that residents had returned to reclaim their homes.  As our local guide told stories of survival and renewal, he suggested, "Instead of thinking of New Orleans as the poorest large Southern city in the United States, you might think of it instead as the richest large Northern city in the Caribbean."

With that in mind, I offer a brief and hopeful post-Katrina, New Orleans pictorial:

I end with a landmark (and landmark paint job!), Ernie K-Doe's: