Sunday, March 16, 2008

Putting the Work in Context

March 16th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “I was in the Superdome and it was hell. And I don’t wish that on anybody...If I were to do it again, I would have stayed on Claiborne Ave and slept there.”

Tonight we had the huge privilege of going to the Stern’s house, a family friend of Lev’s. We were also lucky enough to hear Lev’s former baby sitter, Earlene, and her granddaughter, Jessica, speak along with the Sterns. Something that seemed to strike a lot of the group was a certain similarity between the situation after Katrina and the Holocaust. Earlene told us that when people in the Superdome were being bussed elsewhere, families were completely divided. She described the process saying, “If there was a mom with three kids, but the bus could only hold three more they’d just take the first three in line.” In short, it didn’t matter how many families were divided or how old a child was who was left behind. We were all shocked at how alike this process was to the family separations at the concentration camps. While they are different circumstances one can’t help but be reminded of the similar situation 60 years ago.

A lot of us also noted the racial differences in the stories we heard. In a documentary we watched before the trip, the African Americans were very offended by the term “refugees.” However, our host, Chuck, referred to himself as a refugee because he was unable to answer questions about his home in New Orleans and he didn’t know how his home’s status was. This differed from the view we heard from the people in the movie; they felt as if being called a refugee meant that they were no longer citizens of the country because their houses were destroyed. Tonight’s remarks by residents gave us a first hand account of the pain and suffering the aftermath of the hurricane caused and made the experience more real for us.



We met an Israeli named Ami at shul on Saturday who had moved to New Orleans 7 years ago and asked us for help with his house. Even two and a half years after the hurricane, his house showed tremendous signs of damage, and his yard was a complete wreck: fallen trees, metal, glass, and bricks were strewn across his property. He is only allowed to throw out a certain amount of trash each week, so since the hurricane he has been cleaning up his yard bit by bit and slowly rebuilding his house. He described to us how difficult his life has been since Katrina—lack of insurance, a car accident and low income have been extremely painful, both physically and emotionally. He expressed enormous gratitude at our being there, and it was rewarding to see the improvements we made in cleaning up his yard. He promised us that the next time we visited New Orleans, he would host us, and then gave Jesse G. a free haircut (he is a professional hairstylist.)


Quotes from Paulie:
“You start the day in New Orleans with a plan, and then the day happens.”
“Anyone can build a structure, but when it’s built with love, it’s a church.”
“There is one prayer that I truly believe in. It is ‘Thank you’ and ‘You’re Welcome.’ So thank you.”

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