Tuesday, October 11, 2005
7 News Features: Back To The Bayou: Going Home
It is the largest recovery effort in our nation's history. Billions of dollars are being spent rebuilding the Gulf Coast. But it is a slow process - testing everyone's patience. Tonight, Seven' Carmel Cafiero - a New Orleans native - has more on her trip Back to the Bayou. She shows us how the city spirit has survived and thrived.
WSVN--The bells of St. Louis Cathedral ring along empty streets in the French Quarter these days. There are no artists hanging their paintings on the fence around Jackson Square or along Pirate's Alley. The Cafe du Monde is empty - hot beignets topped with powdered sugar - just a sweet memory.
And everywhere businesses are shuttered and locked and empty. Even though the Quarter escaped major damage - it reflects the crisis facing the entire area.
Investigative Reporter Carmel Cafiero: "I was born and raised in and around New Orleans. Coming back now is both a heartbreaking and heartwarming journey. I saved my Tulane diploma."
Tom Parker is a friend. He and his wife Maria and daughter Kayla lost two homes…this one outside New Orleans and another in Mississippi. Fifteen-year-old Kayla is coping with all that -- plus the loss of her friends. Her school is gone and the students are scattered throughout several states. Maria - a schoolteacher months away from retirement is now unemployed.
Maria Parker: "All these material things really aren't all that important. But we have no place to call home. I feel like a gypsy going from place to place."
And there are no easy answers for friends or the other families facing the same uncertainty. The water here killed everything it touched - including entire neighborhoods. But there are also signs of life and the spirit of New Orleans returning. Some as basic as a message on the garage door - the owners "are" coming home. K-Paul's restaurant is still closed - but the staff is cooking. Now in a warehouse parking lot. They are feeding hundreds of people a day - for free.
Chef Paul Miller from K-Paul's Restaurant: "This is what this city's about. It's feeding people and making them happy. And we got to keep that going."
In the city's garden district - people are coming home and cleaning up.
Chef Paul Miller: "You couldn't blow me out of this city."
John Martin says he put out the rocking chairs and put up the Halloween decorations because it is a step toward recovery. At night, Bourbon Street is coming back - but most of the customers are off duty military and law enforcement. There are also people working on the clean up taking in the sights - but not tourists that are the city's bread and butter. At the Redfish Grill - the first restaurant to reopen - owner Ralph Brennan believes the city is on its way back.
Ralph Brennan from Redfish Grill: "I think the spirit of New Orleans will come back - but you have to come home."
At least that is what Brennan hopes will happen.
Ralph Brennan: "It hurts as much as the day when I saw the city flooding after the storm. I mean, I cried then and you know if people do not come home, I am gonna cry again because this is a wonderful city and we all loved it at one time. We should still love it. We should come home."
But for so many who have nothing - no homes - no jobs - no cars - staying away may not be a matter of choice. Clearly - there will be nothing easy about rebuilding "the big easy".
Tomorrow night, more business returning to usual. Carmel shows us how one port is doing the bulk of the work. But the federal government may need to spend half a billion dollars to keep it that way.
If you have a story for Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE