Residents of St. Bernard Parish and the Ninth Ward were kind to welcome us into their trailers and homes for two days of literal “door to door” recording. The drive out reminds us what our participants are facing daily: closed businesses, broken buildings, and pile after pile of debris.
Roy and Tony Calabrisi, 77 and 83, took us into Roy’s trailer. His home was first flooded, then burned from the top when the house next door caught on fire.
Roy and Tony talked about how the storm has intensified their relationship with each other and their elder brother Sal, as well as with their neighbors.
They see each other daily at nearby Emergency Communities, a volunteer effort that has become a colorful community center amdist these bleak conditions.
Tony worried that they would not live to see St. Bernard Rebuilt, but agreed with Roy that there’s never been any question of leaving New Orleans.
“When I go, I’ll go out feet first,” Roy told his younger brother. “Don’t worry Tony, we’ve made it this far. We’ll make it. We’ll make it.”
Trisha Roberts and Donna Banks became close friends at the Common Ground Women’s Center, located in the Upper Ninth Ward. Donna is currently the coordinator at the Center, which provides a home for women and children whose homes were destroyed in the storm.
Trisha and Donna were instrumental in transforming the Women’s Center into a tight-knit family unit where everyone lives together, works together, eats together, and prays together. Trisha is newly married and has moved into her own home. They reflected on how profoundly their friendship and work at the center has impacted their lives.
Sydney Roux was interviewed in her trailer by her friend Dagmar Booth. They reflected on the differences between hurricanes Betsy (1965) and Katrina.
Sydney’s trailer sits in the lot where her house used to be before it was washed clear across the street last August. Sitting on the steps of her temporary home is a strange experience with the house looking back at us.
Chalmette High School became a refuge for hundreds of people stranded in St. Bernard Parish when it flooded from end to end. Boats came and docked on the roof over the walkway to the school entrance; refugees included a woman who gave birth, a man on dialysis, twins on ventilators, and many people with lacerations and other injuries.
Facilitators Brett Myers and Laura Spero spent a day listening to conversations between school administrators who served fruit loops and half glasses of water to the crowd for nearly five days. Chalmette High School has reopened as St. Bernard School Unified and is home to elementary, middle and high school students; it is now the only public school open in St. Bernard Parish.