Posts Tagged ‘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

What does the SAINTS Superbowl win mean to me?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

As many of you know, I have been very sick. Unfortunately, I am not able to attend the historic SAINTS Super Krewe tonight. I am doing the next best thing and watching it live on tv. I am crying b/c 4 1/2 years ago I could not have imagined the SAINTS winning the Super Bowl nor a SAINTS parade that would rival the likes of Endymion. Any of us who grew up in New Orleans or has lived here long enough has heard, “Can you imagine what would happen if the SAINTS ever won the Super Bowl?” Well, now we are so fortunate to finally be in that number! All I can think about is when I was evacuated to Tulsa for 3 1/2 months. During those early days of evacuation I was enveloped in the deepest depths of sadness. I didn’t know where many of my family and friends were. Simply put, I didn’t even know if some of my friends were alive. I know many of you reading this experienced the most wretched of circumstances.  As I watch these floats roll down Poydras Street in front of the Superdome, I am filled with great joy. I can remember seeing the flood water enveloping the Dome as I watched helplessly from Tulsa. Now, I sit here and watch our beloved SAINTS victorious in a SUPER BOWL and parading down our once flooded streets. This is such a historic and beautiful night. I know all those SAINTS fans up in heaven are smiling down on us now. New Orleans is living proof that the hardest of obstacles can be overcome. New Orleans is rising up because of her people and I love each and every one of you.

WHAT A WONDERFUL TIME TO BE A NEW ORLEANIAN!! WHO DAT, baby!!!???!!!

4th Anniversary of Katrina Update

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Dear friends, every year I write a Katrina Anniversary letter.  It’s been 4 years since she hit and New Orleans had federal levee failures which flooded our city.  There has been lots of healing over these years, but there is still much healing to be done.  I guess the same could be said of our rebuilding as well.

I watched a Weather Channel special two nights ago with Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News and his Katrina experience. As I watched it took me back to those horrible weeks that followed August 29th, 2005.  It was a tenuous time for New Orleanians.  Those of us lucky enough to have evacuated watched helplessly from afar as our city and her people struggled to live.  And, I mean that quite literally!  It was the most helpless feeling I have had in my entire life.

I evacuated to stay with my older sister in Tulsa, OK.  She was the only one in my family to leave New Orleans.  I was very sad to see her leave many years ago, but now her home in Tulsa was my only saving grace.  I was so relieved on that day in early September when I got her phone call at the hotel.  I was exhausted from watching hours on end of my city being destroyed.  On the verge of an all out breakdown, the phone rang.  It was my sister saying, “Pack your things and come live with me in Tulsa.”

I got to Tulsa along with my two dogs and boyfriend.  (my mother in father were elsewhere. long story!) I remember being in her backyard with my dogs.  Relieved to be out of a hotel, but emotionally distraught about what my future would be. Her neighbor peered over the fence and started to talk with me.  He worked for an electrical company in Tulsa.  He proceeded to tell me, “Yeah. I just talked to a friend and he told me that the main electrical grid for New Orleans is destroyed. It may be 6 months or longer before it is repaired.”  I couldn’t tell you what that man said after that.  I just stood there dumbfounded and sickened to my stomach.  It’s a feeling I hope to never have again in my life.  All I could think about was HOME.  New Orleans.

I ended up being evacuated for 3 1/2 months in Tulsa. I was home just in time for Thanksgiving.  That was a very special Thanksgiving for our family in 2005.  I remember on the ride home from Tulsa we came to point where the Cypress trees grow in the swamp.  Yes, many of our beautiful ancient Cypress trees were cracked in half by Katrina’s wind, but they were still standing.  Just as they had been for hundreds of years.

One of my dogs died while I was evacuated in Tulsa. She came evacuated with us, but an unfortunate accident occurred and I had to put her to sleep.  It has taken me 4 years to get another dog.  Louis (named after Louis Armstrong and Louis XIV) will not ever replace my Boo, but he is an integral part of my healing process.  Dealing with the aftermath of Katrina and then to lose one of my dogs was almost more than my soul could bear.  I suppose I got through it all by grace of God.

I go back to Brian Williams of NBC Nightly News.  After we got back home to NOLA, he would come quite often to give the country updates about Katrina recovery.  One evening, we found out he was here and where he was reporting from! We drove like mad in the car to get to him. We got there just in time to see him finish his news report.  He was reporting from the London Avenue Canal breech in Gentilly.  And, I remember Harry Lee sitting in a chair nearby.  This neighborhood was besieged with over 8 feet of water.  When Brian Williams was done, I went over to thank him for his commitment to NOLA.  I couldn’t get 4 words out before I was overwhelmed with grief.  Mr. Williams gave me hug and held me for a moment. He said, “Everything is going to be o.k.”  I will not forget his words.

We still have much rebuilding to do. As I have said in past Katrina letters, our rebuild is marathon not a sprint.  Every few months a grocery store, library or post office opens.  New Orleanians rejoice at these events b/c we know what it is like for them to be gone.

It has taken me 4 years to deal with the emotional trauma of Katrina.  Only months ago did I begin to write down my memories of the storm.  I still haven’t finished doing it. I have to stop sometimes b/c it is just too hard to remember those things.  But, it is helpful.  If any of you reading this are trying to come to grips with your Katrina baggage, I highly recommend writing it down.  It’s been a great release for me. Also, it is very important for all of us to document history for future generations.

I will close with a few words.  Any of my fellow New Orleanians who are back at home and struggle with our recovery remember the words Brian Williams said to me, “Everything will be o.k.”

8/28/2009 Development: CNN Headline News called me today about my Ireport that I had posted on their network.  They asked if they could do an interview today.  Of course, I was thrilled to talk about New Orleans. Click here for the video of the interview I did with Chuck Roberts and click here to read their blog about my 4th Anniversary letter which you are reading now.  Thank you for not forgetting New Orleans, CNN!

And, for those interested in my handcrafted NOLA photograph jewelry and accessories for the home, please click here.

Much New Orleans Love to All,

Heather Elizabeth

Bye Bye, Hurricane Gus! I am coming Home to New Orleans!!!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

I will be coming home to New Orleans tomorrow! I have been evacuated since Saturday in Monroe and it has been a very stressful evacuation. Gustave threatened the city I love so much and I thought for a couple of days New Orleans might be washed off the map.  A Cat 5 Hurricane brewing in the Gulf with a bulls eye on the Miss River is nothing to laugh at!  We will be home tomorrow and ready to start selling at the art markets again.  Please check my website at http://www.hedesigns.com and view my SEPTEMBER Art Market schedule.  Come and say HI on September 10th at the Lakeview show…I would love to see all of my old friends…Just a couple of days ago, I thought I might not ever be able to do an art market in New Orleans again…Thank God for the miracle of sparing our beloved city.

GEAUX SAINTS! BEAT DEM  BUCANEERS!!!!

Much New Orleans Love,

Heather Elizabeth

Please keep New Orleans in your prayers… We can not handle Hurricane Gustav

Monday, August 25th, 2008

I am going to go ahead and post a request for prayers.  Please keep New Orleans in your prayers during this difficult limbo phase with Hurricane Gustav. He is forecasted to make landfall as a Cat 4 Hurricane.  We are not sure where he will be ultimately going, but the whole coast of Louisiana is in his cross hairs.  New Orleans can ill afford a hit from a Cat 2 or higher hurricane.  The Army Corps of Engineers will not complete our 100 year levee protection until 2011!!!  Let me further inform you that 100 year levee protection is only for storms of a Cat 3 or LOWER.  So, New Orleans will not ever be protected from Cat 5 unless someone at the Presidential level deems it important enough.  It can be done. It’s been done in the Netherlands.  Is anyone listening to our pleas for Cat 5 levee protection and wetland restoration???

The Port of New Orleans controls much of the grain, coffee and other imported goods that the United States consumes.  Not to even mention, the oil we have down here! Scroll down the aforementioned link, to read about oil off of coast.  So goes New Orleans, so goes the Nation…

So, in the coming days when I am normally prepping for Christmas and making ornaments and other NOLA goodies for my customers…I have been boxing up as much of life as possible, getting prescriptions for dog filled, gassing up the car and getting on the road with my loved ones.  Trying to remain hopeful, but I know we may end up leaving our beloved city for evacuation. This makes my heart sink.  I am shell shocked by all of this…

All my friends: I will be evacuating tomorrow morning…Please let me know where you have evacuated…and that you are safe.

Please keep the people of NOLA in your thoughts and prayers in the coming days. 

** I will be checking emails and orders online while evacuated, so everyone please stay in touch!!

Much New Orleans Love to all who love NOLA,

Heather Elizabeth

3rd Anniversary of Katrina a.k.a. “the thing”

Monday, August 25th, 2008
Dear friends of New Orleans, it is the 3rd Katrinaversary as we call it in New Orleans.  Writing my annual Katrina letter is like giving birth. It is very painful, but it is worthit in the end. I think this may be my longest Katrina letter in three years. I have a lot on my mind so please bear with me…New Orleans is doing better than she was last year, but she still has a very long way to go.  Many parts of the city remain devastated.  Hurricane Katrina destroyed far more residential property than had any other recent hurricane, completely decimating an estimated 300,000 homes.  So, you can imagine that it will take us many more years to get the REBUILD completed or I will use a phrase I learned while evacuated to Tulsa for 3 1/2 months, “to get R dun.”  This REBUILD is a marathon not a sprint.

Without the help of volunteers from all over the country and the world much of the REBUILD could not have been completed.  I would like to take this time to thank all of the volunteers who have come down here in the last three years to help us gut homes, build homes and loan a shoulder to cry on.   I also would like to acknowledge the vast number of volunteers who have decided to make New Orleans their permanent home.  Thanks to all of you for believing in our city and for wanting to be a part of this monumental task at hand.  It is the largest REBUILD in American history.  There are no books to tell us how this was done before.  Not unless we look to how Europe was rebuilt after WWII.   All of this being said,  It is truly an exciting time to call New Orleans home.

Now, let me move onto some nagging issues.  I cringe when I hear people say, “New Orleans will never be the same again.”   Most often when this is said it is in a negative way.  As if to say, New Orleans can’t be the wonderful city it was before.  They are WRONG.  New Orleans is striving everyday to be BETTER than she was before the storm.  We don’t want the same ole’ New Orleans that was only known for booze and a good time.  The citizens of this city desire much more.  We are working to build a city with a cutting edge Bio-Med industry, Hollywood South and Technology sector.

Our young people were leaving the state of Louisianalong before Katrina hit.  We were experiencing the “brain drain” many towns in America have been dealing with.  Now, young people are moving back to be a part of our exciting rebirth.  We have teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers just to name a few coming to NOLA to help breathe life into it once again.  As I said before, it is an exciting time to call New Orleans home.

Post-Katrina NOLA has the opportunity to re-invent itself and be better than before.  Our public schools are being overhauled.  New Orleans Public Schools were recently featured in the New York Times for being a model for the rest of the country.  Click here to read article WOW! Who would have ever thought our schools would be a role model for the whole United States?  It is a true testament to the rebirth of New Orleans.  There may be some nay-sayers out there. But, I know most locals are excited about this opportunity to finally make New Orleans Public Schools work for the children who need it so desperately.

Katrina ripped the veil off our eyes.  She exposed gaping wounds in our city for all the world to see.  These same wounds exist in every urban city in America.  Unfortunately, NOLA had to be the city to show the United States what is happening in every city to its own poor and elderly.  It’s bigger than New Orleans. The issues of poverty, crime and corruption are in your own backyard if you care to look hard enough.  Most people don’t want to dig deeper and uncover these painful truths.  Honestly, I think it is human nature to be non confrontational when it comes to serious problems.  It is easier to just walk away than try to fix things.  Thank God many have chosen NOT to walk away from their beloved New Orleans.  It is because of the dedicated citizenry of New Orleans, that she is being REBUILT now.

When the veil was lifted 3 years ago, the citizens were awakened.  We are vigilant about uncovering corruption.  The storm has energized NOLA citizenry.  We are angry and we are vocal. People are blogging, going to meetings and educating ourselves about potential political candidates.  Yes, it’s a new day in New Orleans. Click here to read one of the citizen blogs

I also want to acknowledge the rebuilding of Lakeview and 9th ward.  These two neighborhoods are very different from one another, but each one has determined citizens rebuilding it.  First, I will address Lakeview.  I participate in the Harrison Avenue Marketplace which is the monthly art market in Lakeview.  I was stunned by the overwhelming support by Lakeview for the artists.  The people in Lakeview have lost every tangible item in their lives and yet they give back so generously to the artists every month by making purchases.  It is a characteristic that makes the people of New Orleans very special.  It is one of the many reasons I love the people of New Orleans so much and will not ever leave.

The Ninth Ward is much slower to be rebuilt.  I drive through the neighborhood every few months to see what is happening down there.  For the first two years, I would leave there nearly in tears.  It is only upon my last visit in early August 2008 that I had a smile on my face.  There are some new homes being built both by owners and by charitable organizations.  Brad Pitt’s Make It Right organization is building some homes on one of the main streets that sits parallel to the former federal levee breach.  The homes are cutting edge green friendly.  I know the owners of these new homes will be so proud to live in them.  Please visit the Make It Right website to make a donation here.  Thank you Brad Pitt for not forgetting about us!!!  You are a blessing to us all.

The pictures shown below reflect the chaotic and frenetic sense of our rebuilding.  Some people are home and some are not.  You often will see a newly built home and then a blighted home right beside or across the street from it.  This is the story of our rebuild at this time.  300,000 homes are going to take many years to be rebuilt.   And, don’t forget about the hospitals, police stations and fire stations that still have to be built!

If you live ANYWHERE near a body of water please visit areweatrisk.org to learn if your levees are safe.  Also, please take a moment to sign the petition to ask that there be an 8/29 investigation into the Federal Levee failure that drowned New Orleans at levees.org.  The Army Corps of Engineers investigated ITSELF after the federal levee failures.  That is just not acceptable.  America deserves more from its government.  Here is a video entitled Why do we need an 8/29 Investigation? to learn more about the 8/29 Investigation.

Please continue to come visit us if you live out of town. The French Quarter is pretty as ever and the food is some of the best in the world.  We need each of you to keep visiting New Orleans in order for her to stay healthy and vibrant. New Orleans businesses still your support and will for many years to come.

Most of the nation has moved on with the natural ebb and flow of life.  New Orleanians can’t move on until we can put the REBUILD and the levee failures behind us.  As the years progress, please remember that New Orleans is not finished rebuilding and still needs your help.

* this was written 4 days before Gustav was forecasted to move into the Gulf of Mexico and possibly hit South East Louisiana

Much New Orleans Love to All,
Heather Elizabeth