New Orleans’ 9th Ward Still Struggles in Recovery

NEW ORLEANS (March 18, 2008)-The Upper 9th Ward, an area known for its jazz roots, was itself uprooted when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans Louisiana in August of 2005. It’s been nearly three years since the storm, and while much of the city has been rebuilt, many in the Upper 9th Ward feel there is much more work still to be done.

Carrie Handy, 61, has lived there her entire life and doesn’t think the city considers her area a top priority for rebuilding.

“It’s the city government. Why they give all that money to build the downtown and French Quarter places? Why can’t our people get money? This is my home too,” Handy said, sitting on her front porch, her inoperable washing machine to her right.

Handy lives in an eight-bedroom house on the corner of Laussant Place and Press, one block north along the Florida Avenue corridor, one of the hardest hit areas during the storm. She has no electricity, and uses lighter fuel and an urn lamp for light during nightfall. She has lived alone since her brother died of a stroke last year, although she said people in the neighborhood check on her from time to time. Handy said she was one of the residents sent to Atlanta after she was rescued from the roof of her house, which was the only part that was not under water.

Yet, she is not the only resident dealing with a slow recovery effort in that area. Her neighbor, Bridgett Morgan, who lives in a FEMA trailer across from an empty lot where a small bar used to stand, says she doesn’t understand why more resources are not made available to those who want to return.

When talking about why she wanted to come back after being moved to Houston, Morgan, 52, said, “Why can’t more be done for our people who want to come back here? I came back here because this is where I’m from. This is what our people from around here know. This is our town. The 9th Ward is where it all started.”

President Bush has secured more than $7 billion from Congress this year for repair to the levees, the hurricane protection system, and recovery projects for New Orleans. In 2009 he will request more than $7.5 billion in additional funds to ensure the improvements are completed. However, he will always be linked to the five-day delay before assistance reached the city. Residents are now looking toward the next president to give them the fresh start they need.

Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has promised to secure an appointee in the White House to give her daily updates on the recovery efforts. Her opponent, and fellow Democrat, Barack Obama has pledged to appoint an officer to oversee the rebuilding of the city. The word is still out on Republican John McCain’s plan.

Roger Wilson, 33, a resident of the Upper 9th Ward, has already made his decision.

“I hope Barack [Obama] is the next President, because, I think he’s the only one of the bunch that really cares about us out here,” Wilson said.

To make ends meet, Wilson went into business for himself. He drives his white Chevy pick-up truck through the 9th Ward assisting residents or contractors in clearing debris from homes and businesses. You can’t miss him by the “U Haul, Roger Wilson” spray-painted on a dark, wood panel on the side of the truck along with his cell phone number.

David Fountain has been living in New Orleans since 1978, and says that although the city will never be the same, in time, it will recover.

“If you’ve been here as long as I have, you’ll know that things are going about the best that you can expect, because you’re dealing with a city that was totally wiped out,” Fountain, 62, said. “This is a place I didn’t realize I loved.”

The destruction of the city was one part. Family loss was another. For Carrie Handy, no matter how much New Orleans recovers, it’s the reconnection to her loved ones that she wants most of all.

“I want to be with my family,” she said, fighting back tears in her now glossy red eyes. “I just miss my family,” she said.

Thomas Warren is a graduating senior majoring in broadcast journalism at Howard University. He is from Inglewood, Calif.