NOV. 16, 2005
AUG. 20, 2009
REBUILDING HIS FAMILY HOME
Lower Ninth Ward
As the floodwaters rose, Chester Lastie became a legend in the Lower Ninth Ward. In his 18-wheeler, he carried dozens to safety, including a mother and daughter he plucked from their house moments before it splintered beneath them. Now he’s saving his father’s house. Katrina ravaged it, but Lastie, 44, is restoring it one room at a time and is certain his city will make a comeback. “We’re getting there,” says Lastie, a mechanic. “New Orleans is my home. It’s all I’ve ever known.”
‘HOME SWEET HOME’
When Bridget Gay and her three daughters saw the wreckage of their St. Bernard Parish house, they realized nothing could be saved. With nowhere to go, they lived in a 2-bedroom FEMA trailer for two years. Now in her home, rebuilt with Road Home funds and insurance money, Bridget, 40, sells crabmeat to local businesses, and life has stabilized. “I like feeling that ‘home sweet home’ feeling,” says Bridget’s youngest, Reneé, 11. “Having a roof over our head is everything.”
MARCH 2, 2006
AUG. 18, 2009
Trying to Save Charity Hospital
For five days after Katrina, more than 300 patients at Charity Hospital waited in hellish conditions before rescuers arrived; eight patients died. The horrific scene came to symbolize the chaos that followed the storm. “It was a disaster,” says Dr. James Moises, who had worked at Charity for 11 years.
Today Moises, an emergency-room physician at nearby Tulane University Medical School, is appalled for a whole new reason. Charity, the city’s main hospital for the poor and uninsured, remains closed. While the government decides what to do with the building, Moises just grows more frustrated. “Now there are very limited resources for people who need long-term care, and people are dying because of it,” he says.
SEPT. 18, 2005
AUG. 18, 2009
BACK TO SCHOOL, AT LAST
Viewing her ruined classrooms for the first time after Katrina, principal Rose Smith, 57, didn’t think Brock Elementary School in Slidell would ever open again. “The waterline is forever etched in my brain,” says Smith, recalling the sludge that was as deep as 8 ft. in some places inside the school. But locals demanded that Brock—one of the first racially integrated schools in Slidell—be rebuilt. During a $9 million renovation that was completed last year, Smith and her staff walked through neighborhoods handing out flyers to let families know school was back in session. Brock reopened on Dec. 9, 2008, and this fall will enroll 306 students—just 16 fewer than pre-Katrina. “We have our home now,” says Smith. “We are content.”
AUG. 30, 2005
AUG. 19, 2009
A LOST STORE
Recently Dwayne Boudreaux got a phone call from a New Orleans resident now living in Houston. “She said, ‘I want to come home, but my grandmother says that New Orleans isn’t New Orleans unless Circle Foods is open,'” says Boudreaux, 49, owner of the still-shuttered store that was once a cornerstone of the 7th Ward. “I didn’t know how much I meant to this community.” Once engulfed by floodwaters, Circle Foods is now endangered by its neighborhood, still mostly abandoned. Boudreaux, whose store also provided a dental office and pharmacy, is angry that the city is not helping and worries that even if he does reopen, it will be difficult to keep Circle Foods running. Still, he’s determined to keep trying—after all, he doesn’t feel at home anyplace else. “When I’m in other cities, I just don’t feel the warmth I feel here,” he says.
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