There's a story behind the story of President Barack Obama's visit to Parkway Bakery, and I hope he hears it. When Hurricane Katrina hit five years ago, the levees failed, flooding New Orleans. Everyone knows that, but there are stories that have have been buried and risen again over the years. Justin Kennedy of Parkway Bakery, who jokes that he plans to rename it Parkway Bakery and Presidential Po-Boys, once told me about a neighborhood boat that was taken in the aftermath of 8/29.
The man who took the boat returned it with a note apologizing for taking the boat, and a video explaining why he had to do what he did. The video shows people trapped in their homes being pulled from the water, thanks to that borrowed boat, and it shows the lives saved when it became clear that no one else was coming. This is one of hundreds of such stories, but as with everything in New Orleans there are deeper levels than the national narrative. And a Parkway po boy is more than just a sandwich.
If you've been following this five-part series on my journey post-Katrina, you're as ready to move on to another topic as I am, so I'll wrap it up quickly and move on to 10 pictures of rebirth and recovery. In the last few years, NOMRF has tried to help as best we could. For one year, we shared a home in New Orleans with Dr. John since we both traveled between homes. Mac Rebennack, a fiercely spiritual touchstone in New Orleans, is home. I'm home. For those still making their way back, it's gratifying to know that home is still here when it's time to return.
Yesterday we attended the Treme team's benefit for Make It Right at the House of Blues, which their director Steve Ragan told me will now be an annual event. His Brad Pitt- founded project includes an architectural marvel of a home that detaches and floats. They also have under-home crypts that collect grey water because it's more cost effective that ordering big rectangular containers. In New Orleans, that sounds about right.
Today, Jeff and I walked down to a Jazz Funeral for Katrina and stood in St. Louis Cathedral among the votives lit for the souls lost too soon. I can tell that things are back to normal because of how many locals are walking away from the five-year Katrina commemorations because they lived it. I'm not quite done -- tomorrow we'll be at the screening of Huffington Post blogger Harry Shearer's The Big Uneasy.
And then I hope to write less about New Orleans and more from New Orleans. I've deeply appreciated this forum in the years since Katrina -- it pulled me back into writing after a 10-year break from print media. It turns out you can't write human interest stories when you're no longer interested in humans, but that interest has revived again thanks to the victors and villains of post-8/29. Thanks for following the journey.
Photos by Jeff Beninato