New Orleans: A tale of 2 cities since Katrina

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 1, 2013 at 8:10 pm •  Published: February 1, 2013
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A neighbor pulled him to safety using a strand of Christmas lights. After 2½ days on a rooftop, they were finally rescued. Weaver still has a nasty scar of his right leg from a cut he got while being tossed about in the turbulent waters.

Despite the unthinkable carnage in the Lower Ninth Ward, Weaver never had any doubt he would return and rebuild, even if it's now clear that so many of his former neighbors and fellow survivors won't be following his lead.

"I was born and raised right here," he said. "If Katrina comes back again, I'm still not leaving."

Miller estimates there are more than 10,000 — and maybe as many as 15,000 — abandoned structures in the New Orleans metro area. Many of them have been commandeered by the city's large homeless population, who slip away in the light of day but leave behind evidence of their existence — dirty clothes scattered about, a bedroll where they slept, empty cans and plastic foam containers from what passed for a meal.

As he drives around the areas that won't be found in any tourism brochures, another member of his team, New Orleans native Clarence White, rattles off what used to be here, what used to be there.

"That was a popular bar room over there," White said, turning to his left. "There used to be a drug store over there," he said, shifting his gaze to the right.

The NFL, as it now does in all Super Bowl cities, has set aside Saturday as a day of service, in which volunteers will take part in the renovation of five local playgrounds and their surrounding communities. That gesture will surely be more poignant in New Orleans than any other place where the championship game is held.

But Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, a native of nearby St. Rose, is keenly aware that it will take far more than a few hours to get this city — this entire city — back on its feet.

"When I get home, I drive around the city, go to some of my old spots, just hang out with people," he said. "You see the city is rebuilding, but we've still got a long way to go. It's just different, man. You have so many people that were lost. The spirit was kind of broken for a second. But New Orleans people, we've been through a lot. We love our city, man. We love to have a good time. We love for people to come have a great time with us."

Even amid the lingering devastation, there are hopeful signs of progress. In the Lower Ninth Ward, for instance, construction workers were on the scene Friday at several odd-shaped, energy-efficient homes going up with funding from a group led by actor Brad Pitt.

"I appreciate everything he's doing," Weaver said, though he quickly added that the remnants of Katrina are far, far more prevalent in this part of New Orleans.

Through all the hardship, Weaver doesn't seem the least bit bitter about his plight. He's proud the Super Bowl has returned to his hometown for the first time since Katrina, and he'll be pulling hard for the Ravens to beat the San Francisco 49ers. This being New Orleans, the occasion will be marked with adult beverages and plenty of food — gumbo, red beans and rice, a big pot of crawfish.

But, for all those Super Bowl revelers who might think everything has returned to normal in the Big Easy, Weaver has this message:

"Come on over here where I'm at."

It's not far away at all.

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Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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Online: http://pro32.ap.org/super-bowl-watch and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL



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