OK. This really is it — the final, final, final, final story on our rebuild. I know I’ve said that before, but this really is it. I mean it now.
Resilience, resolve keep New Orleans rebuilders going after Katrina
Posted by Stephanie Bruno, Contributing writer, The Times-Picayune
August 23, 2008 5:50AM
Categories: Long Road Home
After Hurricane Katrina, we began tracking a number of New Orleans residents as they made their way back to their homes and neighborhoods. Some have returned faster than others, but all have experienced a host of trials and triumphs during their journeys.
This week, as we look to Katrina’s third anniversary, we talked to several of our “Long Road Home” families.
This is what they had to say.
BART EVERSON AND CHRISTY PAXSON, MID-CITY
NOTE: Everson and Paxson returned to the city and the upstairs of their flooded home in December 2005. For months, their lights were the only ones in a sea of darkness. Over time, they managed to get the downstairs of their house renovated just in time to welcome their daughter, Persephone, into the world in early 2008.
With the final stages of their home rehab project — lead abatement and house painting — now behind them, Everson and Paxson are now truly settled at home. Everson says that they have made a near-full recovery.
“I no longer burst into tears unexpectedly,” he said. “But the city is still struggling. I feel an ache, an inner sadness, when I catch sight of something that reminds me of Katrina — like an untended property or broken glass where children play. It makes me sad, and it makes me angry, but it strengthens my resolve to stay involved and active in my neighborhood.”
The couple’s Mid-City neighborhood was swamped by floodwater, rendering every building at least partially uninhabitable. And though the area around their house may have come back a little more slowly than others, overall Everson sees Mid-City on an upward trend.
“I would say that our block and the part of Mid-City immediately surrounding us are at about 75 percent of pre-Katrina population,” he said. “There are still many problematic properties. For example, our next door neighbor’s house was never gutted and is getting worse each month. But there is more permanence among the people who moved in post-storm, and that’s a good thing.”
Landmark eateries such as Mandina’s and Brocato’s have reopened, and have been joined by new businesses such as Massey’s and Home Depot.
And though Everson’s frustration with city officials, especially in managing crime, has sometimes led him to wonder whether he and his family will stay in New Orleans indefinitely, he has no doubt that the decision to return and rebuild was the right one.
“I couldn’t imagine not having come back, living elsewhere and wondering how things were in New Orleans. The rebuilding of New Orleans is a part of American history, one of the most fascinating and important chapters in our lifetimes. I wanted to be part of that and in some strange, indefinable way, it just seemed like the right thing for us to do.”