Every month Mona Jones writes a check for the mortgage on her New Orleans East townhouse, even though it's gutted down to the studs. She also pays for her new kitchen appliances ruined by the flood waters and, oh yeah, she pays for the insurance to cover both. And every month she writes another check to rent the apartment where she and her husband now live in Jefferson Parish. She'd like to come home to New Orleans and rebuild, but right now she just can't afford to.
Jones' dilemma is why New Orleans nearly two years after Katrina struggles to come back.
Even if you believed all along those three young men were innocent, yesterday's ruling by North Carolina's Attorney General was stunning. Stunning because in the real world, especially the real legal world, seldom are the outcomes so clear-cut black and white outside of a courtroom.
The charges were dropped and they were innocent -- the accuser was excused for reasons hinted at but not made clear, and the District Attorney, Mike NiFong was guilty of "a tragic rush to accuse." Professionally in his position that is inexcusable, but when it comes to the rush to judgment in this case, it was a crowded field.
Girlfriend is the name of our year-old, long-haired Chihuahua, who we adopted after she was rescued from a puppy mill. She joins our other pets, two cats named Bubby and Bella, both from animal shelters.
But girlfriend is the only one who ventures outdoors, and this spring we noticed she had problems -- wheezing and watery eyes. The verdict? She's got allergies.
And she's not alone.
As I learned for tonight's Nightly News story, it's not just humans suffering through record high pollen counts this spring.
Photo caption: Martin and Girlfriend, as seen in his standup from Monday's broadcast.
I've been covering New Orleans and the Gulf Coast on a regular basis since Katrina. That's about 19 months. Whenever one of my stories makes Nightly, I get two very different reactions. Locally, people say "Thank you" to me and NBC for continuing to keep the city's plight before the eyes of the nation... from that nation I get, "Enough already! I am sick of hearing about New Orleans!"
Outside New Orleans the rest of the country has Katrina fatigue. Understandable, but if you think you're sick of it, then you can just imagine how the folks here are sick of living it. But there is little choice. Moving is not an option when you can't sell a house that's gone and still have to pay the bank back.
Experts here say instead of thinking of New Orleans as a national pain in the backside, Americans should realize there are great lessons to be learned, because it could happen somewhere else. If not a hurricane into a major city, how about an earthquake, or a massive terrorist attack that leaves a city and its society in ruins?
Waveland, Miss. is an amazing place, but these days it's for all the wrong reasons. The destruction from Hurricane Katrina's storm surge left behind scenes of destruction that are spellbinding. I have been there several times over the course of the past five months and each time I see a new depth of the devastation.
So the question becomes: Where do you begin when you have to start over? Our story tonight looks at what the community chose to fix first... A hospital? A fire station? A Home? No...
A great many of you e-mailed about Friday's story regarding the rarity of owner/pet reunions in the hurricane zone. I receive e-mails all the time from viewers who continue to be concerned for the welfare of animals caught up in the Katrina/Rita tragedy. We continue to follow developments because we know many were not only touched but moved to action... offering themselves as volunteers. There are still groups patrolling the streets of New Orleans today looking for animals which they feed or trap and bring to shelter.
Many shelters in the area are still filled with animals rescued months ago... and time is running out. Some have extended care until the end of December, but after that a solution must be found.
NEW ORLEANS - I found myself more emotionally moved by what I saw in the Lower Ninth Ward than I expected today. First, I didn't expect anywhere near the numbers that showed up and neither did the Red Cross. "Why come back?" we thought, "there's nothing left."
But of course I forgot the most compelling reason of all. To see for oneself. In many ways Katrina came rushing back today. Not just for the residents of the Ninth but for me as well. Just when you think all the tears have been cried post-Katrina there were plenty more as folks finally went home.
The policy is called "look and leave." The name sounds so simple and cold... as if one look could make a person want to turn their back on decades of living. You only get eight hours from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. Then you have to go. Nobody can stay overnight. You can come back tomorrow but only in daylight.
Some families brought U-Haul trucks... the sad truth is most don't have near enough left to fill them. For many in this part of New Orleans, it's sad but true, they can't go home again.
I'm not sure how to even title this one, but something remarkable just happened.
We're in the middle of nowhere and yet it's really the city of New Orleans. East New Orleans is now simply a wasteland. Anyone who thinks New Orleans was only a disaster due to the levy failure should come here. The storm surge purged this land.
We were looking for a church, St. Nicholas of Myra. We found it down a long closed road. It is where Father Red served his flock of fisherman. The church is where he rode out the storm. It's also where he died.
We have come to the end of the road and not just for this trip. We are staring at a road closed sign across a little canal. We are at the farthest point in Orleans Parish, or at least we would be if we could figure out how to get across the bridge. Technically, we are within the city limits, but the French Quarter is 30 miles away. You could argue too much has been made of New Orleans but East New Orleans is virtually unknown, which is why we have come. In this mixture out here of bayous and subdivisions, many bridges are broken or unsafe and alternate routes are clogged with traffic and trucks.
By the way, we got separated from the crew and our crack research staff is telling us the are no roads on Mapquest to lead us where we want to go. So... all in all, a great start to the day...
P.S. We really do have great researchers. A big thanks to Aswini Anburajan and Brittany Harris for their wonderful assistance this week.
I guess this journey's almost over... as if measuring Katrina's impact has a finish line... I am assigned here for the foreseeable future so I may park the car for a week or two, but then I'll put it in gear once more and find the on ramp. As result I look at this trip not as over, heck, we were just scouting ahead for stories to come. There are so many more to be told.
What would I have done different? Well, maybe ask for a cooler car. If I knew a camera crew was going to chase me down a highway filming me as I go, then, really, is a white Camry me?