- The Washington Times - Monday, September 12, 2005

NEW ORLEANS — Workers here were picking up trash yesterday, a small miracle under the circumstances. The airport opened to cargo traffic. A bullhorn-wielding volunteer led relief workers in a chorus of “Amazing Grace.”

Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Katrina’s onslaught, the day was marked by signs that hopelessness was beginning to lift in this shattered city. While the final toll from the disaster remains unknown, there were indications New Orleans had begun to turn a corner.

“You see the cleaning of the streets. You see the people coming out,” said the volunteer with the bullhorn, Norman Flowers. “The people aren’t as afraid anymore.”

Mr. Flowers, deployed by the Southern Baptist Convention, stood in the bed of a pickup truck on Canal Street, leading police, firefighters and relief workers in song, punctuated by the exuberant honk of a firetruck nearby.

“This is a sign of progress,” said New Orleans resident Linda Taylor, gesturing at the impromptu gathering. “Last Sunday, I couldn’t find any church services. This Sunday, people have gathered together to worship.”

Numerous residents were able to visit their homes for the first time, however briefly, as floodwaters receded and work crews cleared trees, debris and downed telephone poles from major streets.

Albert Gaude III, a Louisiana State University fisheries agent, was among those returning for the first time since the storm.

“They wouldn’t let us in before, but we made it now, and we could drive all the way here with no problem,” he said.

President Bush yesterday joined commanders working from a military ship docked in New Orleans, spending the night on the amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, which is serving as a control center in the relief efforts.

Today, he plans to tour the New Orleans area and Gulfport, Miss., in his third and longest visit to the region in the nearly two weeks since Hurricane Katrina and subsequent flooding struck the states.

Meanwhile, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport reopened for cargo traffic yesterday, and limited passenger service was expected to resume tomorrow, airport director Roy Williams said.

Mr. Williams said he expects about 30 departures and arrivals of passenger planes a day — far below the usual 174 — at the airport, where a week ago terminals became triage units and more than two dozen people died.

Trash collection began over the weekend, a service unimaginable in the first days after Katrina’s fury battered the Gulf Coast and broke holes in two levees, flooding most of New Orleans.

The city’s main wastewater-treatment facility will be running by today, said Sgt. John Zeller, an engineer with the California National Guard.

“We’re making progress,” Sgt. Zeller said. “This building was under water yesterday.”

David Smith, a volunteer firefighter from Baton Rouge, said it’s a sign of progress that people like him are now in New Orleans aiding the city’s recovery.

“We are helping people get the medicine they need,” Mr. Smith said. “People who haven’t been able to get prescriptions filled. That’s a big step forward.”

Throughout the shattered city, many of the thousands of troops and relief workers paused to reflect — some to mark the fourth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, some simply because it was Sunday.

At a September 11 memorial service in the Algiers neighborhood, firefighters from New York told their colleagues they understood the pain and frustration wrought by Katrina.

Step by small step, residents tried to re-establish pieces of the city’s inimitable character.

Kenny Claiborne has been running what has become known as Radio Marigny from his front porch — no actual radio signal, only generator-powered speakers that carry music by local groups through the breeze down Chartres Street.

“We just got that feeling like, it’s not the end anymore; it’s the beginning now,” he said.

Tommy Hendricks returned to his ground-floor apartment in the French Quarter and found that squatters had left empty bottles and clothes strewn about.

“It’s on life support,” he said of his neighborhood, “but it’s not dead.”

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide