Saturday, August 28, 2010

New Orleans On My Mind

It's hard to believe it's already been five years since that horrible morning on August 29, 2005 when Katrina changed the lives of so many people, including my own. In just short five years, I lost everything, moved, bore the loss of my beloved father, watched my babies go from toddlers to primary school, resigned from my law career, opened up a design shop, and rebuilt a house and home. A lot to pack in in just 5 years! And yet, throughought it all, I grew both spiritually and emotionally, and as a woman, mother and wife.

A lot of people often ask me if New Orleans is back to normal. I mean, five years has gone by afterall. I often don't know how to answer that question. Yes, the city has rebounded as most cities and people do -- it's inherent in our human nature. Our New Orleans Saints did win the Superbowl and people, for the most part, have returned to some sort of normalcy in their lives. But behind the city that is not shown on TV, there are still neighborhoods that remain to be rebuilt, houses that remain blighted, schools that remain closed, families that remain apart, and people still waiting to rebuild.

I live in New Orleans in a little quaint neighborhood called Lakeview (as its name suggests, it borders on Lake Pontchartrain). Hurricane Katrina hit southeast Louisiana the morning of August 29, 2005. As the waters of Lake Pontchartrain rose with the storm, a section of levee floodwall along the 17th Street Canal in Lakeview (only a few blocks from my house) near its mouth with the lake collapsed catastrophically. This was one of the most significant levee failures which occurred in the wake of Katrina's landfall and put the majority of the city underwater. Floodwaters from the floodwall breach inundated large parts of the neighborhood in a matter of minutes. Near the breach itself, the force of the rushing water uprooted trees and even separated some houses from their foundations. Some areas received as much as fourteen feet of floodwater. All that survived from my house was the roof.

Five years later and I am happy to report that my block is about 95% rebuilt. As you can imagine, the experience has forged wonderful bonds within all the neighboring families on this block. Our children play together, we watch out for one another, and we celebrate almost weekly by barbequing outside and sitting out on our porches and exchanging stories.

But not everything is as rosey and certainly not every block is as lucky as ours is. Our neighborhood has come back but on every block, on every corner, and on every park, there are signs that Katrina was here. My husband AJ was recently laid off from his accounting job (yes, it finally hit our family too). In the last couple of weeks, and in an effort to stay focused and motivated during his job search, he has gotten into the habit of going for long walks very early in the morning before anyone is up in our household or neighborhood. At 5 o'clock each morning, he gets up and takes his long walks to think, meditate and get his day started. He takes his cell phone with him. Initially, he started to take snapshots with his cell phone of places he walked by simply to show me how far he had walked. But as the days have gone by, he has found it therapeutic and very enlightening to take photos of this city before it wakes up. He posts them every day on his Facebook page.

In remembrance of Hurricane Katrina and the loss it caused to this city (and in an effort to best answer the question of "how is New Orleans 5 years after the Storm?"), I'd like to share with your some of AJ's photos which he took within the last week. I hope you will find beauty in them and a bit of nostalgia for a city that is still working every day to rebuild and regroup. These photos are of places within blocks from my own home. These images have become a part of my daily world, of who I am and who I will become. They are my children's reality of a past that was, a present that is, and hopefully a better future that will become.


  1. Karina,

    Thank you for writing this post. It's amazing to think that places that once abounded with life and laughter-playgrounds, front yards, school hallways-are now vacant and desolate. Even more amazing is how these places have just been "replaced" where new schoolyards and homes have been rebuilt to house those lives who survived such destruction. I am so glad to have met you. Your stories always speak volumes to me.


  2. Thank you, Mandy, for reading it and taking the time to comment. It means the world to me.

  3. Those images are hauntingly beautiful...filled with sadness and hope. I have always wanted to visit New Orleans and it breaks my heart to think of all the beauty and history lost to the waters. It is wonderful that you are part of a community that comes together and shares a meal and the stories of the day. Having moved around all my life I long for a sense of community like that.

    I hope the job situation is not wearing too hard on your family, but I'm sure your gorgeous shop will see you through the tough periods. I love all the new items you have chosen,,,that little writing desk is just to die for!

    Have a beautiful weekend!
    Hope Ava

  4. I thought of you on Friday night as I sat watching a program on the reconstruction of your home town. It was about volunteers and home owners putting in time to build what had been lost. It showed the devastation that still abounds alongside the enormous community spirit that had volunteers giving up their holidays to pound nails into roof beams for total strangers. Your city has an amazing spirit that Katrina could not vanquish.

    A.J's photos bring tears to my eyes but I know that one day these areas will once again know the voices of children.

    God bless you all xx

  5. Hope Ava and Julienne, thank you so much for your kind words. How does that saying go? "That which does not kill us, makes us stronger." Katrina was devastating but good things have come out of all that. Let us think and pray for the people suffering in other areas of the world that have no means to rebuild, much less, to survive.

  6. Thinking of you and every one in New Orleans on this anniversary. I pray that more healing comes and that the rebuilding continues. 5 years ago we were moving into the very first home we had ever owned and didn't have access to the television for 3 weeks. We knew about Katrina, of course, but missed all of the initial coverage and were shocked when we finally got connected and saw all the devastation.


  7. When I road your story,Karina,I thought:''What a nice and strong personality!''

    I was never beeing in New Orlean,but if I see that photos...that makes me very emotional!
    And if I see you bizzare store,I admire you,dear Karina!
    Thank you many times for your always thougthfull posts,


  8. Thanks, Claudia. Hope all is well with you in NY!

    Dear Violetta, don't be emotional (you'll make me sad too). I admire you as well for your kindness and thoughtfulness.

  9. what all of this brings to mind is that our government sat by and watched the horror of what happened to people, communities and yes even animals and did nothing. what a sad commentary of the government. thanks to the spirit of the people New Orleans will be back, they (the people) will not let it go under. no thanks to the administration. It makes me sad, angry and ashamed.

  10. Thanks, C.J. Hopefully, we can all learn from this and make sure that it does not happen again. Or if it does, make sure that we don't forget how to help our fellow neighbor. Things like Katrina are happening every day, in some shape or form, in all places of the world. Let's remember the lessons learned.

  11. Karina ... these photos are so haunting. It must have been such a terrible terrible ordeal and one which will always be a part of you all. I have never been to New Orleans but have always wanted to travel there to see the beautiful history... I hope one day I will. The one thing that is obvious is the incredible strength and spirit you all have. Thinking of you all from Australia and proud of your fighting spirit!
    Best wishes

  12. There is beauty everywhere, even in the remnants of destruction. Kudos to you for enduring a challenging time and being brave enough to make changes. Keep the faith!

  13. Beth, thank you so much for commenting. I am keeping the faith! And I have people like you to thank for reminding me everyday.

  14. If you've been laid off, seek out a headhunter. They can help you broaden your jobsearch and will be able to look for jobs for you.


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