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TallySaint 06-29-2006 01:32 PM

You Have to See New Orleans to Believe it
You have to see New Orleans to believe it

Paul Attner
June 27, 2006

I didn't feel I could write a meaningful Good Guys piece about the situation in post-Katrina New Orleans without seeing it firsthand. And it made good sense that Deuce McAllister, who would be one of No. 1 Good Guys this year, showed me around New Orleans. After all, as a Saint and a Mississippi native, he was all too aware of the impact left by Katrina.

That's how it came to be that Deuce, gifted Sporting News photographer Bob Leverone, McAllister foundation director Josselyn Miller, Saints PR associate Nick Karl and myself went on a half-day ride into New Orleans this past May.

McAllister had seen much of what Katrina had done, but not all. And even he was stunned by the lack of recovery progress. The Saints train in Metairie, which has rebounded nicely from the hurricane; his home, which suffered roof damage, also is in Metairie. So he isn't exposed to much of the daily remainders that others endure who live in different parts of the area.

So you could see both the shock and hurt on his face when we drove through the Lakeview area, stopping right where a major breech in the 17th Street canal levee occurred. The water from that breech did considerable damage to a lot of central New Orleans. But you could see its immediate impact -- a few $1 million homes were washed completely away.

The canal has been repaired, but only to pre-Katrina standards. "Would you feel safe living around here?" asked McAllister. The answer was easy. Of course not.

That's why, if there is a hurricane in the Gulf this summer, New Orleans will empty out without need of a government order. The citizens live in fear; they can't count on their government or the levee system to protect them. It will become an empty city, no matter how many times they have to evacuate.

"Almost to the year before Katrina, we had a hurricane warning in 2004," said Miller. "It looked like a bad one and people left the city. I got caught in awful traffic. It took hours for people to go a few miles. Then we got nothing, not even rain. I know that figured into the Katrina evacuation. A lot of the mentality was, 'Why leave? We've been through this before.' " That mentality no longer exists.

The folks of New Orleans will talk forever about the incompetence of FEMA, inept politicians, ill-conceived recovery programs, and the incredible lack of common sense that has taken place since Katrina struck. But it is amazing how optimistic they remain despite the daunting obstacles. They believe New Orleans, and the Gulf Coast, will return, better than ever.

"The people of this region have a great spirit," said McAllister. "All they want is a chance. Just give them a chance and they will take it from there. But they love it here. That is why they will come back. It's home; it's how we are. We may not live here, but this is our home."

McAllister would like every athlete from every team that plays in New Orleans over the next months to take time for a tour of just what we saw. Only then will they begin to understand the extent of the destruction and how much needs to be done. I think it should be mandatory for every NFL team which plays the Saints in New Orleans to go on a bus ride the day before the game. The team needs to go into Lakeview and the Lower 9th and everywhere else that the city, and its citizens, suffered.

It would be just as beneficial if every member of Congress likewise visited New Orleans. If they did, it would be hard to believe they would not be inspired to fix what is wrong -- and do it right for a change.


jergensl 06-29-2006 02:41 PM

RE: You Have to See New Orleans to Believe it
GREAT ARTICLE and i agree that every team that plays in new orleans this year should take a bus tour of the city along with every political leader.

LSUJeremy 06-29-2006 04:14 PM

RE: You Have to See New Orleans to Believe it
Good idea. Demoralize the opposing team before the game. Come Sunday, they won't be totally focused.

Benson should pay for the tours.

hagan714 06-29-2006 04:20 PM

RE: You Have to See New Orleans to Believe it
bull doze the rubble to the gates

LongTimeFan 07-03-2006 08:53 PM

RE: You Have to See New Orleans to Believe it
I was there a few weeks ago and have to say that the city is still in really bad shape, long way to o.

LordOfEntropy 07-03-2006 11:51 PM

RE: You Have to See New Orleans to Believe it
That's what I hear as well. My house was in Lakeview, near the Plantation Coffee House on Canal Blvd. I left the day before the storm hit, when the evacuation went mandatory. I have not been back since - so I haven't seen anything firsthand.

But may parents house was in Lakeview as well - and they've told me horror story after horror story. They were one of the "fortunate" ones given a FEMA trailer. But they've given up on trying to live in it though - not like you could fit a family inside that little thing anyway. But they've given up on New Orleans entirely, have made an offer on a small house in Jena (near Alexandria). They just can't make it in NO, no work, no livable house. They're gonna sell what's left of the main house as soon as they can, though they know they're going to get financially raped in the process. They have no choice.

Also, another close friend of mine had two houses in Lakeview - the one she lived in the whole 70 years of her life, also another one that she rented out to live off of. She told me that there's no other option than to bulldoze what's left, that they houses simply can't be salvaged. But the problem is no one, whether charity, government, or insurance company - is willing to help cover the costs. Though she had full flood insurance, just like my parents, no one is paying the true value of the damage. Well, she can't just live in a wheel barrow, so she's purchased a smaller place out in Metairie with what's left of her savings, and is trying to get her houses bulldozed on her own. But she's making no progress, according to what she's told me. She'll likely lose both houses for little or no recompense whatsoever.

So the story is consistent, though I haven't seen it with my own eyes. But the bottom line is nothing's getting fixed in Lakeview, almost a full year later. It's disgusting. You can bet my ass if this had happened in NYC, it's already be cleaned up and rebuilt by now. I'd bet my limbs on it. There would at least be significant progress on rebuilding.

At least there's one gleam of hope, even in light of the miserable national embarrassment Katrina was to the world. Payton's trying to fix the Saints.

But I remember being in England a few months back, with locals there telling me how surprised they were with our own government's lack of response. I remember getting told by Pakistani's how they manage to get food into Bangladesh every year after the monsoon, year after year, and they're just a third world country..... so why can't the US? It was uncomfortable trying to explain it to them. Hell, there -IS- no explanation for it. Only the locals really give a schitt about Lakeview. Or the 9th Ward. Or the Guld Coast.

It's a national embarrassment.

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