Some rooftops have turf gardens (right) that absorb water and sun.
Very few trees remain, but those that are here are very dear to the people who survived the floods by hanging tight to the upper branches, inches above rising water below. The owner of this house (left) was told that he would get more direct sun for his solar panels if he took the tree down. He refused--this tree has become a member of the family.
We continued across a couple of four-lane roads to the Holy Cross Parish nearer the Mississippi, stopping at the Sierra Club headquarters here, and at the construction site of the new offices for Historic Green. Being in Darryl's company made everyone interested in meeting me. I was very glad that I could tell them that I am the Chair of the Sierra Club in upstate New York (Hudson-Mohawk Group). The Sierra Club is such a strong presence here that no other explanation is necessary; even the students we had at the bayou were Club members and had a familiarity with environmental issues in their home areas.
"Holy Cross is a historic area that the city of New Orleans has been more interested in restoring. Also the flooding here, while devastating, did not rise as high," Darryl told me. I could see that there were many shotgun houses and Creole cottages that were in the process of being restored. Still, even here a newly rebuilt house could be next door to an abandoned one.We passed a group of students working on a rain garden. Designed with native plants, these gardens absorb water between the houses and the streets. Another group painted a nearby building. "We could not have gotten as far as we have without the help of volunteers," Darryl said. "We still have not received the help from the government that we have hoped for."
This house (above) is a "Katrina Cottage." I remembered fund drives and ad campaigns, in 2006 and 2007, for these small homes that would help replace those lost in the flood.
Eventually we returned to see how the students were doing. Darryl had brought more water for them to drink, as the sun got higher and the humidity rose. The students were pleased to show him their progress in filling the base of the stairs with rock.
Darryl looked at the sections where posts held up the stairs and cement would be poured to connect the steps to the rock. Some spots needed a few more rocks--I admit to helping throw rocks. I wasn't much help, and I came in when the hardest work had already been done, but I helped try to fill in the empty spots and enjoyed chatting with the students.
Buying cement mix was next on the project's agenda, so we left the students again. The students remained sitting on top of the levee in the breeze, eating their lunch. "You must meet a lot of great kids," I said to Darryl. "Every day," he replied, nodding.
On the way to the hardware store, Darryl dropped me off in a neighborhood where I could find my way back to places that were familiar to me and eventually to the hotel. I thanked him for giving me so much of his morning, and he said, "I want people to see what it's like here and what we are doing. Then they will go back and tell others."
To this end, I am telling you here in my blog about the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans today. Feel free to share this blog post with people that you know. If you would like to help, there is still much work to be done. Donations can also be made to The Sierra Club Foundation, c/o Environmental Justice and Community Partnerships, 85 Second St. Suite 750, San Francisco, CA 94105, with the words New Orleans EJ on the memo line of your check. Thank you.