Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Homecoming

I got lucky on monday and with about 5 days off I got on a flight bound for New Orleans. Theres only 2 flights a day, and seats were few and far between, but when its meant to be, its mean to be. Since I could only come home during the week (my dad decided that i should just come home when i could, because $100 might not be enough to get me off for the weekend), I basically spent the day on monday with my dad at work. But most of the day he got to basically show me around.

Lunch was first...he took me to the only place in the city still open..a restaurant downtown in the french quarter. As you know, that area didn't flood, but for the most part its deserted as far as civilians. Lots of national guard, firefighters, policemen, and such. But this restaurant was somewhat crowded, seeings its the only place to go eat. And that includes fast food. My dad said fast food places are trying to open, but theres no one to work, and they're even offering $16+ /hr plus a signing bonus just to work.

After that he took me to the ninth ward, one of the most devastated parts of the city, where I could see water lines running across houses up over windows. Streets were littered with debris, stranded boats, tree branches, and the guts of cleaned out houses. All of these houses were probably going to be demolished. Signs were everywhere offering to gut people's houses. The economy here is pretty much being supported by destruction services. We tried to go to the lower ninth ward, which is the lowest income and the most devasted part of the city, but there was a checkpoint and you needed credentials to get in (which we had), but the line was too long. We had things to do.

After that he took me to one of the levee breaches...where we had to four-wheel through sand-covered neighborhoods just to get close to. We had to walk part of it. We found construction crews working on the levee, which still had a trickling stream of water coming through. Houses were destroyed, sand that came through the levee was up to the windows of houses, and the house right behind the levee breach had been ripped from the foundation and thrown 50 yards away. Everything was destroyed. My dad said that on a scale of 1-10, and the lower ninth ward being a 10, this was a 5. No comparison.

The plan for the evening was to cover a high school football team. Theres an inner city ministery called Desire Street Ministries which my dad is involved in, and is run out of the lower ninth ward. The ministry turned into a school, and recently they started a football program thats never actually played a game before. Scrimmages, yes, but never a real district game. Before the hurricane they evacuated to florida with help from Danny Weurffel, a full time employee who happens to be an ex heisman trophy winner at Florida and an ex NFL Quarterback. With his connections, they moved the school to Destin, Fl with the kids (i was informed that after the storm they found some of the kids in other states, and with they're corporate connections, used private jets to go get them). Anyways, that night they were driving in from Florida to play they're very first game.

After my tour of the city, we met the team at a church (we had to four-wheel it around a flooded underpass, following the national guard, to find the place) and my dad took pics of the kids getting ready. We headed out to the field where i just watched while my dad took pics. Danny Wuerffel was there, but his duties have nothing to do with the team. He doesn't coach or anything, he's just there for the kids...and maybe he gives a few pointers every once in a while. He also helps a lot raising money using his name.

Bottom line was, these kids were probably one of the most talented in the state, but they were not a team. They didn't know what they were doing. Refs helped them out, telling them what they were doing wrong without penalizing them. Consistently I heard "Hey coach, you only got 9 kids out here!!!" It was all a learning experience for them, but I don't think they understood that. I've never seen so much drama and emotion left on the field. During a 50-14 defeat to a small white-boy dominated private school, I saw kids cry, refuse to take the field, and just basically give up. They blamed each other. They hung they're heads. They didn't grow up with the concept of "team," but they would have to learn. If they played together and with they're heads, they could've been anybody. But they were just raw talent. After the game ended, at 9pm, they got on the buses and drove 5 hrs back to florida.

We headed home that night where I got to see my mom and just take it easy. The next morning I tailed my dad again as he continued his story and headed to Danny Weurffel's flooded home. My mom told me that i'd get to help find the heisman trophy. Hey, thats somethin i could do!

We met danny, his wife, his dad, and the writer at his very modest home and tried to get in the front door, which wouldn't budge. We went 'round back, past his flooded car, and got in the back. We found a toppled fridge, rotten furniture and mold everywhere. It stunk. The water must have been 4-5' in the house...and there were about 10 steps leading up to the house..it was raised. So i'd imagine about 8' of water from the ground up. They didn't live far from one of the levee breaches. They were in good spirits all things considered...they joked about how they couldn't find the olympic torch he carried in florida, which they found later broken in two. Not much was salvagable, except for the 3 year supply of lotion his wife had.

His wife later told me that my dad called them during the flooding and said he was in their neighborhood in a boat..and asked their address. He found their house and took a picture of it, which they now had and wanted to frame. She said it would save a lot of trouble if the house would just burn down.

Luckily, the Heisman Trophy was safe and sound and his parents house.

Since then I've been taking it easy at my house (parents are at work...don't have transportation). Things around my hometown are returning to normal, except for the traffic that i've never had to deal with. I went to the grocery store last night, and it took twice as long as usual. My dad said our population has gone from 250,000 to 350,000 since the storm. Theres TONS of trees down in my neighborhood, one getting toppled with 2 trees that is pretty much destroyed now.

Stores around here are slowly opening, but the moods have changed. The local news is...well everything about Katrina. Theres no other news to report. Grocery stores are back on their feet, though some items are still unavailable due to suppliers getting destroyed.

So that pretty much brings me to where I am now, where I finally got my dad's internet fixed. I'm heading back home..hopefully...assuming i can get on one of those 2 flights...and gettin' back to work.

-JJ

7 comments:

Brown Sugar said...

glad you got to go home dude...i cant' imagine what it would be like being over there...i'm glad your family is well and hopefully we will get to visit again..though new orleans might be a while before it's ready to visit..until then i'm gonna win a lottery and move to a mountainous area and own my own gold mine. later

J-Wild said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J-Wild said...

Please keep us updated on that story your dad is working on. I respect your dad so much. Thanks for taking the time to write this post to let us know what is going on. It was a great window into what's happening on the ground right now. I really appreciate it.

Kate said...

That football story totally brought me to tears...I can imagine the emotion on the field. Thanks for all this info - it really is so important to read/hear it.

The Future said...

So you didn't get a heisman?

BSC said...

Bring me some Abita!

Malaysian Debster said...

So glad you got to go home! We'd have loved to follow your dad around too, that's would be such a cool eye-opening experience.