After two hectic days of traveling and hearing the word “y’all” more than I could have ever imagined, we finally started the service aspect of our trip! We slept in late (until approximately 6am) and enjoyed a nice breakfast before splitting up to go to our different work sites. Five Lafayette students, 2 Virginian Church volunteers, and an Americorps volunteer drove to our site, which a small (but nice!) one-story house in a neighborhood. The owner currently lives in the finished portion of the house and he was excited to share his story with us. Apparently, he had finished remodeling his house just two weeks before the storm, spending nearly $17,000. When the storm hit, the water flooded his entire house, including three feet of his attic. Through the construction work of different volunteer groups, he and his wife could return to a semi-normal life.
Our project required us to work on the siding in the garage, by screwing on slaves of concrete to the wall. Little did we know that previous workers had mislabeled the water pipe’s location. Just when we were getting the hang of it, we screwed directly into the hidden pipe and were greeted by a stream of water (which soon turned into some impressive blasts). We shut the water off and the house owner seemed pretty understanding of the fact that we had destroyed his house even further. Unfortunately, we had to delay the rest of our projects until the plumber arrived and the wood dried. Tomorrow we will return to the house and make sure that we avoid any treacherous pipes!
Since we left our work site early, we drove around the beachfront properties of the area, which was an eye opening experience. During Katrina, all of these houses were covered in water, and all was lost. These houses were formerly mansions, owned by some of the wealthiest people in the area. Many people rebuilt, but these mansions were juxtaposed with what was leftover of their neighbor’s homes. Many plots were completely empty, while others had piles of rubble. Still others maintained the foundation of their former homes or their front steps, but nothing more. It was impossible not to compare the two situations, and this wealthier area to the destruction we saw in the 9th Ward. Both areas were devastating to view, although their owners came from different socioeconomic backgrounds and had varying experiences with Katrina. This demonstrates how the storm effected people of every walk of life, and people in every area have been unable/chose not to rebuild their former homes.
Now I should probably head to bed, these 6am’s sneak up on me. I’m becoming an old woman and it’s past my bedtime. Night!