Unhappy anniversary: 2 years after Katrina

Not only is Carolyn Brooks' house gone, her whole neighborhood is gone– still devastated two years after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast.

Brooks left her home in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward August 28, 2005, one day ahead of the storm, with nothing but the clothes in her suitcase. "We thought we were going to be back in a few days," she says.

Her sister drove Brooks and two of her children– she has eight altogether– to Memphis. Today she lives in Charlottesville and reflects on the events of two years ago.

"It's sad," she says during her lunch break at Kroger, where she fries chicken for the deli. "I know people who drowned, babies drowned..."

Although Brooks, 50, still hasn't been back, one of her daughters returned to their old neighborhood. "It's all messed up," reports Brooks.

A son who was living in Charlottesville urged her to move here. Churches provided gift cards for food and household items for her apartment. Anne Brown, who was the property manager with Dogwood Housing, took Brooks to pick out furniture collected by the Charlottesville Hurricane Relief Initiative and borrowed her husband's pickup to deliver it. "We provided a lot of support," she recalls, and even though she no longer works at Dogwood, she says she still keeps in touch with Brooks.

"[Brooks] is one of the success stories– she stayed," says Kinda Sandridge, who headed up the relief effort spearheaded by Robert Tobey and Associates. Today, Charlottesville Hurricane Relief Initiative is "dormant," says Sandridge, but could awaken if the need arises again. She estimates the organization collected around $45,000 and helped 65 families in some way or another with furniture or clothes.

Financially, it's been rough for Brooks. But she says her children, Joshua, 12, and Precious, 15, "like it okay" here, and Precious, now a ninth grader at Charlottesville High, has been making As and Bs.

Brooks moved to New Orleans when she was 15, and she still misses the city where she spent most of her life– especially the food. "I don't worry about the gumbo– I can make that myself," she says. "You can't find no good Chinese food. And Popeye's chicken. And seafood– crawfish, crabs... "

Brooks says sadly, "I wish I was at home." But she knows it could be much worse. "I got my life. That's the most important thing."

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6 comments

It seems to me that louisana could reinstitue road gangs to pick up the trash and rubble in new Orleans.

The bottom line is that they should not allow ANY tax money to go to rebuilding in an area BELOW SEA LEVEL.

The reason those people are not coming back is because there is no free ride anymore.

They didn't help themselves for 40 years, what makes anyone think they will start now?

Duh

I'm in Houston, where about 35,000 Katrina refugees found a warm, dry place after the hurricane. Two years later, about 30,000 are still here, and are starting to make their homes here. They're finding good jobs and a welcoming community (please ignore what Barbara Bush said - everybody here does). Many may never return. Which begs the question: who will? Are we seeing the gentrification of one of the most diverse cities in America? Let's hope not.

WTJU's jazz department is doing special New Orleans-related programming all week. Good stuff.

Nev, would you be more specific by what you mean by the vauge statement "This country needs to wake up and do New Orleans right?" Two years later and no one has come up publicly with any solution to any problem. In fact, I haven't heard exactly what problems are people trying to solve there. I'm hoping you can help clarify.

Cville Eye,

1)Less than half of those who have applied for money from the Road Home fund have received ANY type of compensation. Compare this to 9-11, when families affected had received 1.8 million dollars two years following that tragedy.

2) Over 50,000 people are still in FEMA trailers. There is no affordable housing for them to go to if they want to leave.

3) A recent representative sample showed that half of New Orleans residents are suffering from clinical-level mental illness.

4) New Orleans' largest hospital has not re-opened and there is a lack of medical care throughout the city.

A tour of the gulf coast reveals a scene which looks like the hurricane happened 2 months ago, not 2 years ago. I encourage you to visit and see for yourself.

I wondered because I'm aware that over 90,000 sq. mi. in the Gulf region was declared a disaster area but I haven't heard the same complaints about the lion's share of the land area. Many homes, farms and businesses were destroyed and have not been restored. I guess my question is really why New Orleans above anywhere else?

Despite massive destruction caused by the failure of the federal government's levees during Katrina, despite the torment caused by FEMA's slow response to the disaster, despite being hit by a second powerful hurricane less than a month later, Louisiana has had to plead to be treated fairly by our leaders in Washington.

This country needs to wake up and do New Orleans right.