Posts Tagged ‘hurricane katrina’

10th Anniversary of Katrina – A Letter From My Heart

Monday, July 20th, 2015

The 10th Anniversary of Katrina Letter

Hurricane Katrina Metal Wall Sculpture

Hurricane Katrina Metal Wall Sculpture

Well, y’all, here it is 10 years later. Some of you started shopping with me right after the storm and have kept up with my Katrina updates through the years. I was journaling updates each year on my blog until 2010. After 2010, I think I was beginning to feel that the updates were no longer needed because New Orleans was very much back on her feet. If you missed some of my updates which includes photographs documenting the devastation and REBUILD, please visit this link http://blog.hedesigns.com/category/katrina-anniversaries/

The city has been born anew. We have more restaurants than we even had before Katrina. We are breaking tourism records left and right. And, most importantly, we have a much stronger set of pumps in place to protect the city against a very strong storm. But, let me say that all bets are off if a Cat 3 or higher storm comes barreling up the Mississippi. If a Cat 3 comes to visit us in New Orleans, I will be evacuating before you can say, “gumbo,” three times!

So, where are we 10 years later after Katrina? Here is how I see just a few things:

A new headache for many New Orleanians: on-going road construction. The road construction is so important. In many places it is being done to lay HUGE pipes underground to get the water siphoned off to pumping stations. This will help keep the city dry! The men doing this job are breaking their backs in oppressive heat & bitter cold to get the work done. We bemoan driving around uptown b/c they blocked off by a labyrinth of street barricades. (I am guilty of this myself!) Driving uptown forces us to throw our hands up in frustration. But, when this happens, remember where we were 10 years ago! (a sobering thought) And, remember all of the aggravation will benefit the city & our families greatly in the long run…this too shall pass.

Now, for some of the “yucky” stuff…An unexpected feeling has set upon me on this 10th anniversary. A feeling of some uneasiness about where New Orleans is headed Post Katrina. Now, remember I am sharing these feelings as a 5th generation New Orleanian. I have the city so deeply engrained in my blood that I based my entire business upon it back in 2002. So, what I am about to say does not come easy for me. Just a few months after Katrina hit, I heard someone say, “New Orleans is going to become a boutique city. Cost of living is going to go through the roof compared to what it was before the storm. Just you wait and see.” I didn’t take it much to heart at the time. I was too focused on the re-building of the city and my business. But, 10 years later those words ring so loudly in my ears. 10 years later so many multi generational New Orleans families have been forced out of their neighborhoods. Old buildings are being completely renovated and given totally different facades. There are actually some parts of Magazine Street that I don’t even recognize from 10 years ago! It’s a bizarre and unsettling feeling. Recently, someone told me they thought parts of the city were beginning to look like Orlando! A sobering thought. Seriously, though, real estate is going sky high and commanding prices many of us can no longer afford. Rent is going up right along with it. People are being pushed out of neighborhoods that have lived there for generations because of skyrocketing property taxes and rent. Then, to add further insult, some homes are not being rented out anymore by long term tenants. Instead, homes are being listed on websites such as airbnb so the property owners can get $2000+ PER night rather than a monthly rent. And, no I am not kidding. I have actually seen these ads. Again, I hear my friends voice from 10 years ago talking about us becoming a, “boutique city.” The impact upon our deeply rooted community is huge. It is a valid concern that many will not be able to continue living in the city of New Orleans if these trends continue. I suppose we shall see what happens in 10 more years…

For those wondering why I didn’t design a piece of jewelry to commemorate the 10th Anniversary – I guess it’s because I am still ambivalent about the events that took place 10 years ago. In many ways, I still don’t have closure and I don’t know that I ever will. My jewelry designs come from a HAPPY place when I think about my native city. Katrina was absolutely biblical in the level of devastation she unleashed. It is not an event I wish to design my jewelry around. When I think of Katrina, I think of the massive loss of life that took place during the storm (both human and animal). And, I also think about the lives lost in the aftermath of the REBUILD from sheer stress and grief. To this very day, customers come into my tent at art markets & sometimes will begin to cry as they look at my jewelry. They share their story of Katrina loss with me. My work continues to touch a deep emotional chord for many. So, my personal feeling is that we don’t need a piece of jewelry to remind us how far we have come. The daily REBUILD in New Orleans is in itself a commemoration of Katrina 10 years later! Just look around and see the celebration of a city come back to life! So, I will continue to focus on the HAPPY events in New Orleans to inspire my jewelry designs. Focusing upon the rejuvenation of New Orleans instills positive energy into my jewelry and ultimately for the wearer of my work! After all, the last thing I would want is for someone to get bad ju-ju from my jewelry. So, no Katrina Anniversary jewelry for me, y’all…too many awful, sad memories…

I suppose it’s time to wrap up my 10th Anniversary post. I guess you could say I have a bittersweet perspective on the state of New Orleans 10 years Post Katrina. There have been some wonderful turn of events in the past 10 years and some more recent ones that have me very concerned. All in all though, I am beyond pleased to see my city rise up from the ashes of Katrina. It’s been a tough REBUILD at times, but one that has made the city better in many regards. I will continue to make New Orleans jewelry that comes straight from my heart. New Orleans continues to serve as one of my greatest inspirations and she always will. She is my heart and soul.

Lastly, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who shopped with me after the storm and helped me to build my business & life back. I hope some of you are reading this post. Please give yourselves a HUGE hug for me. I truly love each of you and I simply can’t thank each of you enough. The love and support I received from so many will never be forgotten for the rest of my days…saying I am eternally grateful just somehow doesn’t suffice for me.

Much New Orleans Love to All.

Heather Elizabeth

* PS – An interesting development since I wrote this post. I delivered an order to one of my shops in the Quarter. I was talking to an employee there and before I knew it, he told me he had been asked to vacate his French Quarter apartment. Why you ask? So, that it could turned into a short term rental. His landlord preferred quick cash of a short term rental over a long term & stable tenant. This validates the fears that I shared in the above post. Short term rentals such as air b n b pose a serious threat to New Orleanians who are committed to living here for the LONG TERM. Thanks again for listening…NOLA xox

5th Katrina Anniversary Letter

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Heather Elizabeth in Lower Ninth Ward 2010

This letter is dedicated to New Orleans artist John Scott who died shortly after Hurricane Katrina.

Please note: Below are my pictures of New Orleans present day and from 2005 shortly after Katrina hit. It is not until now that I share many of my 2005 photos with the public.  I hope my 2005 photos serve to highlight both our Katrina successes and failures in 2010. It is with greatest respect for all New Orleanians alive and dead that I share these pictures with you. Many of our neighborhoods are now hallowed ground. It is my sincerest hope that my fellow New Orleanians will see just how far we have come, but at the same time never forget 8/29/2005. Peace be with you all.

Dear customers and friends,

It is time for me to write my annual Katrina Anniversary letter. Every year this letter is a process like giving birth. It takes me weeks to compose. Many of you reading this have become dear friends. I want to take this moment to thank each of you for supporting my small NOLA business during the last 8 years. Heather Elizabeth Designs wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for y’all.

What has happened since my last Katrina anniversary letter? Well, New Orleans was coming back Post-K with a vengeance. The Saints won the Super Bowl! Native New Orleanians joked about this happening for years. We would say to each other, “Can you imagine if the Saints won the Super Bowl?!?”  When the city realized the Saints were going to the Super Bowl, there was a frenzy of excitement everywhere.  December 2009 and January 2010 were magical months to live in New Orleans. Who could have imagined such a serendipitous event for New Orleans after August 29, 2005? Simply put, the 2009 Saints Super Bowl win helped New Orleanians continue to heal from Katrina.

Another wonderful event was New Orleans got a new mayor! Mitch Landrieu became our mayor after we won the Super Bowl. Mitch has always been a real friend to New Orleans. He believes in this city and her people. When you talk to Mitch about New Orleans his love of this region is palpable.  His win only helped to cement the fact that New Orleans could look toward a brighter future.

Then, the BP oil catastrophe happened. Not in my recent memory could I remember such a loss of life on an oil rig. Day-by-day things gradually worsened in our beloved Gulf of Mexico.  Our wetlands, coast and wildlife were ensconced in black oily muck. When pictures of oiled wild life were finally published, it was all New Orleanians could talk about. We couldn’t believe our beloved brown pelican was covered in oil! It was more than many of us could stand to watch. And, then there was the ongoing decimation to our seafood industry from the spill. Fishermen that had been fishing for 6 plus generations were losing their livelihoods.

As we were dealing with the ongoing tragedy out in the Gulf, we learned 2010 would be a bad hurricane season. Meteorologists forecasted that our hurricane season could be like that of 2005. This was all you needed to send people down here into an absolute Post-Katrina melt down. We knew that oil was everywhere in the Gulf. We also knew that if a hurricane hit with oil in the Gulf, we would have a catastrophe on our hands that would make Katrina look like a cakewalk.

Now, let’s fast forward to the present…

It appears the well is capped. But, the repercussions of it will be felt for a long time to come. (that is another letter! LOL) We are praying for 2010 to be a year in which we do not have to evacuate and the damned well stays plugged. As long as we have no hurricanes or oil spills, New Orleans may carry on with her miraculous REBIRTH. The New Orleans Saints didn’t call it quits and they won the Super Bowl! New Orleanians won’t call it quits either. We will keep fighting for this city as those before us have done for the last 292 years and we will win this battle, too!

On a lighter note, I am very proud to share with you some encouraging information regarding New Orleans tourism Post Katrina. Pre-Katrina we had 8.5 million visitors a year.  Our numbers have slowly crept back up. By 2009 we had reached 7.5 million tourists! This is great news for our city. Then, Arthur Hardy, our local Mardi Gras expert, says Mardi Gras is back to Pre-K levels.  Also,  New Orleans was rated  #1 for Night Light by Trip Advisor and #7 for top places to visit by Travel & Leisure Magazine. All of these things are a testament to the fortitude of the people of New Orleans.

New Orleanians are a strong people with huge heart.  If you aren’t lucky enough to call this crazy place home, please come and visit us. The music, food, and people are just as wonderful as they ever were. There is place set especially for you at our table.  Please come join us in our rebuilding & celebration of life in this one of a kind American city.

* you may view an archive of my previous Katrina anniversary letters from the last 5 years here

Much New Orleans love,

Heather Elizabeth


We are safe and sound in NOLA. Ike is going elsewhere.

Tuesday, September 9th, 2008

Thanks to everyone who has sent up prayers for the state of Louisiana and the city of New Orleans.  We simply could not have handled another hurricane after Gustave.  And, certainly not a Cat 3.  Gustave did some major damage to our levee walls in 29 areas and they are being repaired now.  This repair work is not connected to the Katrina work still underway and not to be completed until 2011.  So, there is still a lot of work to be done here in New Orleans. 

Tens of thousands in our region still are without power.  It is very hot here right now.  They are reliant upon MRE’s and ice from FEMA.  Power is being restored as fast possible. Many poles are out in the marshes and are highly difficult to restore.  So, please continue to pray for the people of Louisiana. 

On a lighter note, GEAUX SAINTS!!!!  WHO DAT SAY DEY GONNA BEAT DEM SAINTS??? WHO DAT? WHO DAT?

Lastly, my thoughts and prayers are with anyone in the path of Ike. 

Much New Orleans Love,
Heather Elizabeth

Hurricane Katrina 1 Year Later

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

Dear Loyal Customers,

I wanted to let you know how New Orleans and her people are doing a year later. Often people outside of N.O. ask me, “How are things going down there?” I really do not even know where to begin with my answer due to its complexity. New Orleans is on her knees. If she was a woman, she would be in critical care and her fate unknown…

Heather Elizabeth Cleaning Family Tomb (Post-Katrina)

Heather Elizabeth Cleaning Family Tomb (Post-Katrina)

The N.O. rebuilding progress has been terribly slow. There are multitudes of reasons behind this slow progress and they are mind boggling. I can only say that the delays have the people of New Orleans hurting. Most New Orleanians want three things: 1. New Orleans to be rebuilt, 2. Category 5 levee protection, and 3. Coastal and Wetland restoration. We know that the Category 5 protection could be built because it was done in the Netherlands. We would like a similar form of protection built here in Southeast LA.

I pray that none of you will ever know the deep pain of dealing with life after a natural disaster. 80% of my city is destroyed. The scope of Katrina’s wrath was biblical. It will take 5-10 years to rebuild the city to its pre-Katrina level. I try to explain the scope of devastation to people who are living out of town this way:

“Imagine standing on a bridge and looking through a drinking straw at the devastation. Then, after a minute take the drinking straw away from your eye. The enormity of the disaster is revealed”.

The very important thing to remember is that the places tourists love to visit in New Orleans are in the remaining 20% of the city not affected as deeply by Katrina. We call it the, “sliver on the river”. The historic French Quarter, Garden District and Marigny neighborhoods are intact and OPEN for business. I encourage each of you to come and visit New Orleans in the near future. We need people to come and eat in our restaurants, walk on our sidewalks and visit our museums. Every sale helps a local business to stay afloat and put food on the table for their families. If you can’t come to New Orleans to visit, please do business online for the upcoming Holiday season. I will include some links at the bottom of this page.

Most importantly, I would like to express my deepest thanks to those that have emailed me or made purchases over this past year. Every sale has been a real blessing. Your mails have provided me comfort and hope when I felt like we have been forgotten. Thank you for not forgetting about New Orleans.

Imagine for a moment if the world around you had been destroyed. That many of your friends had moved away. And the places you vacationed as a child were destroyed. Hold onto that feeling and multiply it by one thousand. That is the feeling that every New Orleanian is still processing a whole year later.

The attached photos are for you to see what NOLA looks like one year later.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers. And, thank you again for support. Links for information on how to support our area are listed below and also on my links page.

Much New Orleans love to all of you,
Heather Elizabeth

http://www.savebigeasy.org
http://americaswetland.com
http://www.gumbopages.com/shopnola.html
http://neworleanswebsites.com/index.html
http://www.shopforneworleans.com

Katrina devastation, one year later…