There are vast sections of this city that are still dark, deserted and just plain dirty. The mark of Katrina and how bad a neighborhood fared is very clear — a stripe around homes and businesses at varying levels. You can see a line of scum, like a clear glass left outside half full of water. Once the water is poured out, there is that brown or rust-colored line left as a reminder and scrubbing it clean takes serious elbow grease, along with a special soap. Now imagine that line on thousands of businesses, homes and buildings. It's about four feet at a now abandoned gas station in uptown. In parts of old Metairie the line is lower, between one and three feet. It’s still high enough to abandon homes and livelihoods.
We see the 9th Ward and the complete devastation. As horrible as it appears, these people possibly could rebuild quicker than in other parts of the city. Homes here could be bulldozed (and many should be) and then rebuilt from scratch. In other parts of the Crescent City area, like Metairie, the choice is tough. I see family after family living partly in their second-story home or partly in a trailer on the front lawn because the downstairs of their home has been gutted.
Then there are people like Paul LaRosa. His home has a subfloor. The outside looks great, upstairs superb, but how do you cut away a rotten floor that's two-feet above ground? You've got framed walls and supports, the floor runs under them. As his contractor says (and he's got something like 43 other jobs), "This one, Paul, is going to be real difficult."
It seems so long ago since we were here, soldiers marching through the streets weapons drawn, water mostly stagnant and a city dark as the prairie at night. Mostly this has changed, but the replacement sights, sounds and pictures aren't always better, just different. For example, gone is the water, but still here are thousands of cars. Some of the same ones I saw months ago still haven't moved. The job is so daunting. It will take months more to get them all piled up, somewhere. Piles in fact are common — piles of siding, flooring, and appliances lined on some streets like a snowplow had come through and cleared the road. In these same neighborhoods I see many lots now cleared and even some new homes being built. It is odd to drive down a street and see one home gutted, the home next door is gone and next to that a new foundation has been started.
As I sit on our Endymion Parade float (8A for those of you who caught a bit of Mardi Gras), I hear the stories and trials from people who still have a long way to go before things get back to normal. Many watched our coverage and saw our crew standing next to the water, or next to the people on the freeways. As my friend Chris Laiche told me during his time away from New Orleans, “Adam, it is so hard to watch all this stuff in your hometown. You have no idea how your house is holding up and there is nothing I can do. You feel helpless.”
Now, I sense people feel a bit overwhelmed. More than half of all restaurants aren’t even open. There just isn’t enough help. Some fast food places are offering bonuses to people who show up a week straight and salaries can start at $10 an hour. But through it all — the helplessness, disappointment, and now frustration — people still are resilient enough, stubborn enough to believe this city can be rebuilt. That’s the important thing. That’s the spirit found during this Mardi Gras.
Adam Housley joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in 2001 and currently serves as a Los Angeles-based senior correspondent.