I think this is the last of my New Orleans posts. I'm going to weave this one into my Pearlington notes somehow and pack it all into one big post later this week.....
I do have one more thing to say. I've debated whether or not I should say it because it's kind of a downer. But it's the truth and a fact and you'll find out anyway.
Some of the houses we rebuilt in Pearlington are being torn down. The reason it hurts me to say this is because I watched the volunteers work on them. I know how much work went into working on these houses. I know how sore those volunteers were at the end of the day, how many bandaids those houses consumed.
And I don't want the volunteers to throw up their hands and think "then what was all our hard work for? Was it all for nothing?"
There is a section of Pearlington across the highway on the bayou. Actually there's two neighborhoods there. One is Belle Isle and it's mostly frame houses built on stilts. The other one is Oak Harbor and it has brick homes built on concrete slab foundations. The problem with Oak Harbor is that because of coastal erosion anytime there is tropical weather, hurricane or depression, anything to cause surge to bring water inland, the houses on the ground flood. Frame houses can be jacked up on stilts but not concrete houses.
After Katrina, the government stopped offering any money to rebuild these houses. Instead, they have come up with a buyout program: they will buy your house. Once they do that, they tear the house down and let the land go back to nature and no one can ever build a house on that land again.
Chloe McShan's mother told me their grandmother had taken the buyout and her mom was on the list. I had worked on both of those houses. I remembered doing the taping and bedding for the hall in her parent's house. My work would be bulldozed.
I had to stop and think about how I felt about that.
There had been a question about an electric line in one of the houses and Beaven had devoted a whole day to tracing the line. I asked him how he felt about it.
Was it all for nothing?
Beaven's answer was that they needed a place to stay. It didn't matter what the future held. They needed a place right then. And they lived in that house since 2007. He was glad to be able to give them that.
Then I remembered the joy I felt in getting to know Chloe and her family and the people I worked with while I worked on the house. It was like the house was just an excuse, just something to keep my hands busy while I talked to my new friends.
And, for that, it was worth it.
I find myself thinking, "Golly, wouldn't it have been a lot easier to have known all this sooner?" But there were so many things about Katrina that we have figured out after the fact. Life is just really messy most of the time. The very best we can hope for is two steps forward and one step backwards because that's still progress. And if we do it holding each others' hand it's not so bad.