French Quarter-same yet different

On this day, most of us in the region are thinking back 5 years. I have read heart wrenching reminders as well as happy news that people waited to share today with their friends so that happy memories could start replacing the sad ones. I appreciate them all.
Since this blog talks of everyday life in the old quarter, I will tell the stories I heard about the days directly after K. All are tales that were told to me, so details are as close as I can remember…
-A friend of mine who was kayaking around the city after the levees broke talked of getting to the Quarter, finding a pay phone and calling his family in Chicago from its still working state. Hanging up, he turned back to the waterway, which was St. Claude on the lake side. He said (as did others) that you could walk on the river side but not on the lake side of the street.
-My mother evacuated and her coworkers did not know (as she never had before). Neighbors told her when she returned 30 days later that people would come and call for her over her wall (sure she was in there) so they could bring her food and drink from the restaurant. When one of the neighbors said, “she left”, the coworkers said, “Holy shit! She left!” Of course, she took the important paperwork so she was able to mail out paychecks from my sister’s house in Ohio right on time. She became the lifeline to over a hundred people needing to know what was going on back home and needing a shoulder to cry on. As usual.
-My mother walked back into her house (September 28th or so) on St. Louis and found the lights on, fish still alive and plants thriving in her courtyard. My stepfather had finished his 3 week shift on his boat on the Mississippi and walked home a week before. With their home intact, they worked to assist me and my grandmother who had damage from falling trees on the Northshore. Since my mother’s home is brick, built by hand by craftsmen who came from tropical climates (so knew how to build it right) AND its held together with iron rods with the older brick house next to it she remains among the luckiest in the city.
-My kayaking friend used another friend’s place on St. Ann that had electricity and working laundry throughout.
-I heard that the workers working on the cupola at the Presbytere stayed throughout to make sure it didn’t topple as they were not done.
-Scott Braswell of Stella’s opened Stanley’s on Decatur within a few days after the storm. Stanley’s is now on Jackson Square where he successfully fought off a bid of a Starbucks that wanted the vacant storefront in the country’s oldest apartments.
– A friend just told me a story last week of her and her husband’s stay in their non-flooded home in Treme and how they used their FQ shop to stay in when the police got too insistent about them leaving more than a week after the levee breaks. Even though one was working with media and they were fine with all of the food and water they had. So off to the shop with their 7 dogs. When they tried to leave later and went to get their car from the garage on Rampart, they encountered some dudes doing damage within to windows, ostensibly trying to get a car. They could hear glass being broken methodically on upper levels. Their van was flooded as they tried to exit, and as they pushed it up the street to a place where it could dry, police kept guns trained on them from across the street, warning them to stay away.
-All of the old families who had property still in the FQ used it for anyone in the family who was flooded or rented to people here to work. For a few months, the old city was packed with full-time residents. Unfortunately, it also brought Americans who drive everywhere with huge cars and the streets were overrun (and the sidewalks) with trucks with out-of-state plates and no idea how to parallel park.
-After many of us returned, we came to the old city more and with a renewed belief that keeping old and new side by side is more important than ever.

About DW

New Orleans resident, writer, activist. Public market consultant.

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