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.
There were quite a few "for lease" signs.
Elsewhere, signs of the hurricane were obvious. The flood water line runs through the house number.
Still, there were signs that people could find humor in the most bleak circumstances.
The house across the street, well along the way towards being repaired, looks like it belongs in a different picture.
FEMA 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."
The 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.
Around the side of the building.
There's a shopping cart from the Winn-Dixie.
That's a photocopier.
The children's section.
The Cliffs Notes and cockroaches will outlast us all. The ground is covered in sludge, muck, and mold. That's carpet you're looking at.
"Discover what's inside."
The printer is actually outside the building. The line in the background is where the wall used to be.
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