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Lower Ninth: Still a Nightmare

On August 29th of 2005, Robert Green, a resident of the Lower Ninth Ward, lost everything. His entire home was swept away in the floodwaters, and both his grandmother and three-year old granddaughter, perished in the flood caused by Katrina.

Robert Green lost even more than his home and family members: he lost his community, something that he has to yet regain.

Almost nine years later, the Lower Ninth has yet to fully recover. The few that have returned to rebuild their homes and neighborhood are beyond resilient, but many onlookers are pessimistic about the future of the neighborhood, doubting it will ever fully recovery.

After being forced to leave their homes for months, informed by the government that it was not safe, the majority of the citizens chose not to return to the aftermath of hurricane’s wreckage and ruins.

Those who have returned are growing increasingly frustrated by the slow recovery and only marginal progress made over the past nine years.

For every ten lots, which each contained a house before Katrina, perhaps five are completely empty, three are uninhabited, boarded up, and in extremely disrepair, and two have been completely rebuilt-andstrangely conspicuous in the sea of weeds and dilapidated residences.

Locals feel that after the initial mess was cleaned up, the government forgot about them. This view stems largely from a lack of government funding, ultimately adding to the widely shared opinion that, although a hurricane is, in fact, a natural disaster, the turmoil following was a completely “Unnatural Disaster.”

The term, along with its negative connotation, is used frequently in reference to the breaching of the levees, an event that, according to many, could easily have been prevented-had the government been willing to spend money reinforcing the inadequate wall designed to prevent flooding. Many residents blame the local levee boards for not reinforcing the walls after the Industrial Canal was widened.

The biggest point of tension resulted from the immediate restoration of the Jefferson Barracks, a military base on the edge of the Lower Nine. The barracks were rebuilt almost immediately after the flood, being reconstructed even as the official word was that it was unsafe for residents to return to their homes.

While thousands of locals struggle to get back on their feet and rebuild their homes and neighborhood, there are individuals within the community actively working against them. The frequency of theft in the neighborhood is staggering.

Early in June, a work in progress, was broken into over night. The doorframe was irreparably damaged and several appliances were stolen. Cynthia, the homeowner, had few words to say on the matter. Her one comment, however, seems to embody the spirit of the Lower Nine: simply stated, “I would be upset, but I’m tired of crying.”

Written by Sarah Wexner’17

Photo by Sarah Wexner ’17


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