NOLA to New York

Katrina survivors talk to New York
This via email from Tami:
Tami evacuated with two friends, two dogs and her cat. After 1 month on the road, she meet up with her son, Ian (10 years old) in Michigan (her home state). After many challenges, landlord passed away due to storm, loss of business- After much hard work and sacrifices- Tami’s business is back, they bought a house and Ian is finishing up high school. Tami says, “Things get better!”
Photo courtesy of Tami

This via email from Tami:

Tami evacuated with two friends, two dogs and her cat. After 1 month on the road, she meet up with her son, Ian (10 years old) in Michigan (her home state). 
After many challenges, landlord passed away due to storm, loss of business- 
After much hard work and sacrifices- Tami’s business is back, they bought a house and Ian is finishing up high school. Tami says, “Things get better!”

Photo courtesy of Tami

There is now a backlog of photos coming in from New Orleanians for which I am grateful.  This one came over last weekend just when I was getting back home to NYC.  And, it is some of the most practical, frank and funny pieces of advice thus far.  This is from Regan:


"I was born and raised in New Orleans, grew up with hurricanes, and know all about hoarding water in buckets for after storms and masking taping windows. 

I was living uptown before Katrina and decided at the last minute to evacuate with my boyfriend. We dropped our supplies at my grandparents house because they refused to come with us, and headed to Baton Rouge. We stayed with a friend there for one night and then headed to Houston where some friends took us in for a week. From there we moved to another friend’s house in Austin and it eventually became clear that we weren’t going to be able to go home. We got an apartment in Austin and moved in with a borrowed bed, couch, and tv and waited to rebuild our lives. It was 8 weeks later that our zip code was reopened and we got to go home. But our home wasn’t a place suitable for living as it took in about 4 feet of water and the roof blew off the back rooms. We managed to save enough stuff to fill the bed of a pickup truck. 

Seeing the furniture I had inherited from grandparents ruined was heartbreaking, seeing our home office full of computers flooded was painful, but dealing with our fridge that had flipped on to its side and spilled rotten food all over our kitchen was impossible. If you can, just throw your whole fridge out without opening it (be sure to tape it closed before moving it). And if you can’t, wear a mask sprayed with lavender oil while you clean it. Everything else I was able to deal with, but rotten food just about did me in.  

I’m now living in Austin, raising a family here. I still have many family members in New Orleans and I worry every hurricane season for them. But I know if the city were to suffer another storm, it would survive. New Orleans has been through it once and can do it again. We’re a bunch of party loving drunks who have survived against all odds. New York might seem bad now, but you’re way more organized than we ever were. Your sense of community is already there, whereas we had to build the community togetherness after Katrina. You WILL survive. As long as you don’t open that damn fridge.”

Photo courtesy of Regan
There is now a backlog of photos coming in from New Orleanians for which I am grateful.  This one came over last weekend just when I was getting back home to NYC.  And, it is some of the most practical, frank and funny pieces of advice thus far.  This is from Regan:
"I was born and raised in New Orleans, grew up with hurricanes, and know all about hoarding water in buckets for after storms and masking taping windows. 
I was living uptown before Katrina and decided at the last minute to evacuate with my boyfriend. We dropped our supplies at my grandparents house because they refused to come with us, and headed to Baton Rouge. We stayed with a friend there for one night and then headed to Houston where some friends took us in for a week. From there we moved to another friend’s house in Austin and it eventually became clear that we weren’t going to be able to go home. We got an apartment in Austin and moved in with a borrowed bed, couch, and tv and waited to rebuild our lives. It was 8 weeks later that our zip code was reopened and we got to go home. But our home wasn’t a place suitable for living as it took in about 4 feet of water and the roof blew off the back rooms. We managed to save enough stuff to fill the bed of a pickup truck. 
Seeing the furniture I had inherited from grandparents ruined was heartbreaking, seeing our home office full of computers flooded was painful, but dealing with our fridge that had flipped on to its side and spilled rotten food all over our kitchen was impossible. If you can, just throw your whole fridge out without opening it (be sure to tape it closed before moving it). And if you can’t, wear a mask sprayed with lavender oil while you clean it. Everything else I was able to deal with, but rotten food just about did me in.  
I’m now living in Austin, raising a family here. I still have many family members in New Orleans and I worry every hurricane season for them. But I know if the city were to suffer another storm, it would survive. New Orleans has been through it once and can do it again. We’re a bunch of party loving drunks who have survived against all odds. New York might seem bad now, but you’re way more organized than we ever were. Your sense of community is already there, whereas we had to build the community togetherness after Katrina. You WILL survive. As long as you don’t open that damn fridge.
Photo courtesy of Regan
Jose hit the road in his semi the day before Katrina heading toward Jackson, Mississippi.  What should have been about a three hour drive took over eight because of traffic.  He spent the night of the storm in his truck between two other semis at a Jackson truck stop.  He lived in that cab for months.  A first generation American, and native New Orleanian born of Honduran parents, Jose is finally home.
Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Jose hit the road in his semi the day before Katrina heading toward Jackson, Mississippi.  What should have been about a three hour drive took over eight because of traffic.  He spent the night of the storm in his truck between two other semis at a Jackson truck stop.  He lived in that cab for months.  A first generation American, and native New Orleanian born of Honduran parents, Jose is finally home.

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa


This came in today in an email from Jessica:

"I am a local New Orleanean and business owner and we are running a trip to bring donations from New Orleans up to New York.  We have partnered with two community non profits in an area of long island that was hit really hard.  I would love to bring some of these amazing photo messages with me and credit your brilliant idea.  This is exactly why we are going up there ourselves with donations - the Red Cross can give out food and gift cards but we want to look New Yorkers in the eye and tell them it will be ok… My parents home flooded, my brother’s home, my aunt’s home… This is a reality that I have now been through in two places that I have called home.  NY was there for me during Katrina and I want to show them that they are not alone."

You can join the Facebook event here and find out about donating or taking part.  Photo courtesy of Jessica.
This came in today in an email from Jessica:
"I am a local New Orleanean and business owner and we are running a trip to bring donations from New Orleans up to New York.  We have partnered with two community non profits in an area of long island that was hit really hard.  I would love to bring some of these amazing photo messages with me and credit your brilliant idea.  This is exactly why we are going up there ourselves with donations - the Red Cross can give out food and gift cards but we want to look New Yorkers in the eye and tell them it will be ok… My parents home flooded, my brother’s home, my aunt’s home… This is a reality that I have now been through in two places that I have called home.  NY was there for me during Katrina and I want to show them that they are not alone."

You can join the Facebook event here and find out about donating or taking part.  Photo courtesy of Jessica.

Here’s a particular heart melter.  Kids from Harriet Tubman School on Algiers Point (just across the bend in the Mississippi from NOLA and the French Quarter) sends love to NYC.  

Here’s the note I got from one of the teachers.  

Hi, 

Wanted to pass this on to you, as I thought you would appreciate it:  

I’m a 4th grade teacher here in New Orleans. I work in Algiers at Harriet Tubman Charter School. My students were very young, but many of them have horrible memories of Katrina. I moved here in the wake of the storm to teach and haven’t left, and am currently a full time graduate student at Columbia’s Teachers College in addition to teaching full time. my summers are spent in New York, and many of my friends in my cohort have lost everything. We sent them the following email yesterday, please feel free to use the pictures to share the love on your blog. 

I hope everything works out for you, and that you can make it home safely!
 
Be well,
Jonathan McCarty 
DO NOT USE THE PHOTO OF THESE CHILDREN WITHOUT EXPRESS PERMISSION OF THE SCHOOL
Gogo and her (now) husband evacuated ahead of Katrina with six cats and her neighbor’s goat.  Her 200 guest wedding was scheduled for October 1 but because of the hurricane couldn’t happen.  Telling the story today in her jewelry shop on Magazine Street, Gogo starts to cry.  Later after they came home and when the mail started again, she received a pile of RSVPs.  She didn’t keep them but now kind of wishes she did so she could make them into an art project.  (Gogo got married - happily - later in 2005).
Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa
PS - I am traveling back to NYC today, November 3, more pics to come.  NOLA-ites - please keep sending in - I have been getting a lot of lovely feedback from people who are touched by your kindness!

Gogo and her (now) husband evacuated ahead of Katrina with six cats and her neighbor’s goat.  Her 200 guest wedding was scheduled for October 1 but because of the hurricane couldn’t happen.  Telling the story today in her jewelry shop on Magazine Street, Gogo starts to cry.  Later after they came home and when the mail started again, she received a pile of RSVPs.  She didn’t keep them but now kind of wishes she did so she could make them into an art project.  (Gogo got married - happily - later in 2005).

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

PS - I am traveling back to NYC today, November 3, more pics to come.  NOLA-ites - please keep sending in - I have been getting a lot of lovely feedback from people who are touched by your kindness!

This is another NOLA resident sending in their own photo and words for NYC’ers:

"I’m DeShawn. I grew up in New Orleans East and even though I left for the storm…a family rule that stands anything above a Category 2 we leave. We were only 2 hours away from New Orleans but the atmosphere was so different compared to what was going on a short distance away. After seeing the Twin Span torn to pieces, the only thing that repeated in my mind was, "There’s nothing left. Even if there is, how can we get home? The bridges are gone." The one place I lived my entire life, was now a shell of what it used to be. After the frustration of trying to seek normality and being in a home with 25 other people, it was patience that brought us all through it. We were all in the same boat. per say, but we had to pull together in order to survive.

The photo says it all. Be patient. Waiting in long lines for simple means of survival is frustrating, but look at the bigger picture. All material possessions can be replaced. Your life is the most valuable thing you have…YOU SURVIVED!!”

Photo courtesy of DeShwan
This is another NOLA resident sending in their own photo and words for NYC’ers:
"I’m DeShawn. I grew up in New Orleans East and even though I left for the storm…a family rule that stands anything above a Category 2 we leave. We were only 2 hours away from New Orleans but the atmosphere was so different compared to what was going on a short distance away. After seeing the Twin Span torn to pieces, the only thing that repeated in my mind was, "There’s nothing left. Even if there is, how can we get home? The bridges are gone." The one place I lived my entire life, was now a shell of what it used to be. After the frustration of trying to seek normality and being in a home with 25 other people, it was patience that brought us all through it. We were all in the same boat. per say, but we had to pull together in order to survive.
The photo says it all. Be patient. Waiting in long lines for simple means of survival is frustrating, but look at the bigger picture. All material possessions can be replaced. Your life is the most valuable thing you have…YOU SURVIVED!!”
Photo courtesy of DeShwan
I am so glad that people are sending in photos.  I put it out there for NOLA people to please send in their own pictures since I can’t get to everyone and I will be leaving for NYC tomorrow (hopefully!).  This is from Heather:
"I am a 5th generation New Orleanian. My family has weathered many floods and even yellow fever. But, Katrina took every ounce of strength for us to rebuild. I was living back at my child hood home at the time the storm hit trying to get my fledging business off the ground. It is located in Metairie, a suburb about 20 minutes outside of New Orleans. My parent’s home was flooded with over a foot of water from Katrina. I ended up being evacuated to Tulsa, Oklahoma to stay with my sister’s family. One of my dogs that had evacuated with me died in Oklahoma within a week of the hurricane hitting. It was a devastating loss which still lives with me today.  I cried tears so hard while evacuated that sometimes I couldn’t breathe.  And, a deep depression settled over me until I was able to return home. My business is my very own love letter to New Orleans. It is based upon my NOLA photography. So, I knew my body of work was more relevant than ever after Katrina.  I had to get back HOME. I was gone from my beloved New Orleans for over 3 months. When I returned it was encouragement from friends, family and customers that held me together emotionally. And, my photography became my Post Katrina therapy. So, I would tell everyone in NY and NJ to keep the faith. Try to be patient with yourself and those around you. Please remember your recovery is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Change will not come overnight. Be ready for twists and turns as the recovery unfolds. And, if you need to talk to someone, do it! Don’t bottle your emotions up. If you want to fall to your knees and cry, do it! Your loss is palpable and it’s okay to cry your eyes out till they are red and bloodshot. Not only does your neighborhood have to recover, YOU will have to heal from this tragic loss. Lastly, remember this: When you think the nation has moved on in the days of 24 hour cable news, think again. New Orleans intimately knows your pain and we are thinking of each of you in the long term. We are holding you up in prayer in your darkest moments. We have walked in your shoes. Keep your chin up. Take it day by day. And, don’t ever forget NOLA loves y’all!"
Photo courtesy of Heather

I am so glad that people are sending in photos.  I put it out there for NOLA people to please send in their own pictures since I can’t get to everyone and I will be leaving for NYC tomorrow (hopefully!).  This is from Heather:

"I am a 5th generation New Orleanian. My family has weathered many floods and even yellow fever. But, Katrina took every ounce of strength for us to rebuild. I was living back at my child hood home at the time the storm hit trying to get my fledging business off the ground. It is located in Metairie, a suburb about 20 minutes outside of New Orleans. My parent’s home was flooded with over a foot of water from Katrina. I ended up being evacuated to Tulsa, Oklahoma to stay with my sister’s family. One of my dogs that had evacuated with me died in Oklahoma within a week of the hurricane hitting. It was a devastating loss which still lives with me today.  I cried tears so hard while evacuated that sometimes I couldn’t breathe.  And, a deep depression settled over me until I was able to return home. My business is my very own love letter to New Orleans. It is based upon my NOLA photography. So, I knew my body of work was more relevant than ever after Katrina.  I had to get back HOME. I was gone from my beloved New Orleans for over 3 months. When I returned it was encouragement from friends, family and customers that held me together emotionally. And, my photography became my Post Katrina therapy. So, I would tell everyone in NY and NJ to keep the faith. Try to be patient with yourself and those around you. Please remember your recovery is not a sprint. It’s a marathon. Change will not come overnight. Be ready for twists and turns as the recovery unfolds. And, if you need to talk to someone, do it! Don’t bottle your emotions up. If you want to fall to your knees and cry, do it! Your loss is palpable and it’s okay to cry your eyes out till they are red and bloodshot. Not only does your neighborhood have to recover, YOU will have to heal from this tragic loss. Lastly, remember this: When you think the nation has moved on in the days of 24 hour cable news, think again. New Orleans intimately knows your pain and we are thinking of each of you in the long term. We are holding you up in prayer in your darkest moments. We have walked in your shoes. Keep your chin up. Take it day by day. And, don’t ever forget NOLA loves y’all!"

Photo courtesy of Heather

Wendy grew up on the North Shore of Lake Pontchatrain.  Her family had evacuated for many storms over the years but had seen nothing lining up to hit NOLA like Katrina.  She wants New Yorker’s to know the road back is rough but it can breed creativity.  

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Wendy grew up on the North Shore of Lake Pontchatrain.  Her family had evacuated for many storms over the years but had seen nothing lining up to hit NOLA like Katrina.  She wants New Yorker’s to know the road back is rough but it can breed creativity.  

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Alvin had a home in Mid City.  It was his mother’s place.  He evacuated to Baton Rouge the day before the storm.  When he finally came back, the water receded and the watermark was halfway up the first floor wall; his roof, partially torn off, had let in the rain.  Alvin wishes they could have kept the property in the family but the federal program Road Home offered them less than it was worth but with his mother aging, they had to sell.  He can’t watch too much of the Sandy coverage because of his memories of Katrina.  
Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa
Alvin came from the West Bank, where he now lives, to participate in NOLA to New York.

Alvin had a home in Mid City.  It was his mother’s place.  He evacuated to Baton Rouge the day before the storm.  When he finally came back, the water receded and the watermark was halfway up the first floor wall; his roof, partially torn off, had let in the rain.  Alvin wishes they could have kept the property in the family but the federal program Road Home offered them less than it was worth but with his mother aging, they had to sell.  He can’t watch too much of the Sandy coverage because of his memories of Katrina.  

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Alvin came from the West Bank, where he now lives, to participate in NOLA to New York.

John’s home never lost power during Katrina, but a block down they did - he was lucky.  But he did evacuate to just north of Baton Rouge for the storm.  When he came back, he said all the leaves off the Oak in his front yard were ripped off, but the garbage cans didn’t even move.  He’s a native of The Lower Ninth Ward where his people ran a grocery.  

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

John’s home never lost power during Katrina, but a block down they did - he was lucky.  But he did evacuate to just north of Baton Rouge for the storm.  When he came back, he said all the leaves off the Oak in his front yard were ripped off, but the garbage cans didn’t even move.  He’s a native of The Lower Ninth Ward where his people ran a grocery.  

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

When I started this project, I didn’t see this coming but am glad Bethany shared it with me.  She writes: ”I am a New Orleans native that went through Katrina, but I now live in NYC. Everything about this week has reminded me of what happened in Nola. My fiancé, from New Jersey, turned to me and said, “Everything I know is gone. My entire childhood is gone.” All I could say in response was “If anyone can understand, I can. I’ve been here before.”
Photo:  courtesy of Bethany and her fiance, John at Jackson Square, NOLA this summer.  When I get back to NYC, Bethany is going to let me photograph her for NOLA to New York.  

When I started this project, I didn’t see this coming but am glad Bethany shared it with me.  She writes: ”I am a New Orleans native that went through Katrina, but I now live in NYC. Everything about this week has reminded me of what happened in Nola. My fiancé, from New Jersey, turned to me and said, “Everything I know is gone. My entire childhood is gone.” All I could say in response was “If anyone can understand, I can. I’ve been here before.”

Photo:  courtesy of Bethany and her fiance, John at Jackson Square, NOLA this summer.  When I get back to NYC, Bethany is going to let me photograph her for NOLA to New York.  

Calvin was living Uptown before Katrina.  He was evacuated to seven different cities starting with San Antonio, TX.  But, he managed to get back.  After he did he opened his own barber shop.  When asked what he would say to New Yorkers, he paused for a minute before he said it’s not about the material things…

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Calvin was living Uptown before Katrina.  He was evacuated to seven different cities starting with San Antonio, TX.  But, he managed to get back.  After he did he opened his own barber shop.  When asked what he would say to New Yorkers, he paused for a minute before he said it’s not about the material things…


Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Barry, who was head of the sculpture department at Tulane, was stuck on the I-10 to Baton Rouge when Katrina came.  Not the short way out of town either - he had to go up over the Sunshine Bridge and around the city, backtracking to head west.  When he was able to return to his Irish Channel home, he found looters in his house and kids siphoning gas out of his car.  

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Barry, who was head of the sculpture department at Tulane, was stuck on the I-10 to Baton Rouge when Katrina came.  Not the short way out of town either - he had to go up over the Sunshine Bridge and around the city, backtracking to head west.  When he was able to return to his Irish Channel home, he found looters in his house and kids siphoning gas out of his car.  

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Lauren was in Baton Rouge covering Katrina for a local news channel.  She sat through FEMA news conferences hearing about the horrors in her hometown of New Orleans. At one of those pressers it was announced the roof was flying off the Superdome. Lauren couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She thought my God, I have to go on air and report this in two minutes.
Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa

Lauren was in Baton Rouge covering Katrina for a local news channel.  She sat through FEMA news conferences hearing about the horrors in her hometown of New Orleans. At one of those pressers it was announced the roof was flying off the Superdome. Lauren couldn’t believe what she was hearing. She thought my God, I have to go on air and report this in two minutes.

Photo credit:  Andy Kopsa