Monday, June 26, 2006


On Friday I met up with Beth, a librarian from Slidell (on the northeast side of lake Pontchartrain). She took us on a driving tour around New Orleans and showed us the community college library where she works. I had a fair bit of morbid curiosity, but I definitely got the feeling that Beth wanted to show us the damage so that we would go home and tell others. She had an amazing sense of humor about the whole thing. As we were walking through her house, which was basically just a skeleton with a roof, she pointed out that the week before the storm hit, she had just had the carpets cleaned. A neighbor had just repainted and only moved back in two days before they had to evacuate.

We drove by a Rite-Aid with a big "OPEN FOR BUSINESS" sign. Of course, they were referring to the trailer parked in front of the building. There were FEMA trailers everywhere. They lined the yeards of suburban homes and formed little camps in the Toys R Us parking lot. Next door to the toy store, the Home Depot was thriving. If you closed one eye, you could almost overlook the damage. It was like my brain couldn't handle what it was seeing and would have been more than happy to imagine roofs where only blue tarps existed.

These photos were taken on Friday, June 23, 2007, nearly ten months after Katrina. (click photo for larger image)

Everywhere I went, I saw signs welcoming librarians.

The French Quarter looked mostly normal, if a bit empty.

for leaseThere were quite a few "for lease" signs.

flood water lineElsewhere, signs of the hurricane were obvious. The flood water line runs through the house number.

FEMA help deskStill, there were signs that people could find humor in the most bleak circumstances.

tree stump on carThe house across the street, well along the way towards being repaired, looks like it belongs in a different picture.

FEMA trailersFEMA trailers were everywhere.

This is the library at Delgado Community College. Water rushed in through broken windows and destroyed almost everything. They saved about 1000 volumes, roughly 1/4 of the collection. The books are still in boxes because they don't have any shelves. Beth continued to amaze me with her resilience and humor. In a way, she saw the whole experience as an opportunity. When she explained how the room had been remodled, she added, "I never did like those windows in the corner."

pontchartrain branchThe Pontchartrain branch of the St. Tammany Library, one of two branches in Slidell. It was new and shiny last August. Next door at the Winn-Dixie grocery, repairs are complete and the parking lot looked full.

missing wallAround the side of the building.

inside the libraryThere's a shopping cart from the Winn-Dixie.

photocopierThat's a photocopier.

library shelvesThe children's section.

cliffs notesThe Cliffs Notes and cockroaches will outlast us all. The ground is covered in sludge, muck, and mold. That's carpet you're looking at.


library poster"Discover what's inside."

printerThe printer is actually outside the building. The line in the background is where the wall used to be.

front door

moldy book

I'm still reeling from everything I saw. After our tour, Beth was on the phone with her husband and she remarked, "Yes, they were duly impressed with our devastation."

Mine is only the account of a weekend. In 1 dead in attic, there are a host of post-Katrina stories by Times-Picayune columnist Chris Rose that need to be heard.

The Gulf Coast still needs our help.

Rebuild New Orleans Public Library
Dewey Donation System, Harrison County Libraries, Mississippi


At 4:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting these.

At 5:16 AM, Blogger doctorj2u said...

Thank you for coming to New Orleans. The ALA showed bravery and compassion in keeping its convention date. For Nola to survive these hard times we need our tourist industry to get on its feet, and your convention showed the other organizations that we can again handle large conventions. Thanks for being the first. And, yes, we WANT people to see the destruction. We want people to understand that the old parts of the city are recovering from a bad hurricane but are up and functioning. At the same time, hundreds of miles of neighborhoods are devastated by flood waters. These are the homes of the most wonderful, giving people in the world. Your friend, looking for a laugh in the sadness, is a prime example. People "elsewhere" just think of the looters as our citizens. It breaks my heart. The real New Orleanian is kind and giving and love their city to the core of ther soul. Thanks again and don't forget what you saw.

At 5:11 PM, Blogger Mary said...

Thank you for sharing these pictures. It's amazing to see all the devastation. It's a good reminder to those up north of what still needs to be done down there. Even with all our flooding in the north, the devastation in New Orleans is just something one could not imagine unless they see the pictures.

At 11:17 AM, Blogger Ms. NOLA said...

Thanks for posting about your experiences. It's so important that people continue to reveal the truth about what is happening in the Gulf Coast region. We can't let the country for get about it. Did you happen to see my former neighborhood library in Lakeview, Smith Library?

Also, I'm a '00 friend of Rachel Brill's from Bryn Mawr --- as well as a native New Orleanian. I'm not sure if we actually met while we were in college, but I just thought I'd say hi and thanks.


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