Just last week, Donna Schlaudecker was in her carport, sifting through the last of a few flood-damaged items.
“This is the last of my stuff,” Schlaudecker said. “I have a few books, a projector and some music boxes that belonged to my mother. Over the years, I’ve tried to salvage what I could but some of it just has to go.”
Schlaudecker was a toddler when she and her family moved to their home in the 1200 block of West William David Drive in Metairie 50 years ago.
“We had never flooded, but in Katrina we had several inches of water inside, and there was mold everywhere,” said Schlaudecker, a videographer and musician. “Sheetrock had to be replaced, and many of our belongings were ruined. It was hard, but you know a lot of other people lost so much more. We were lucky.”
Residents living along the 1000 to 1200 blocks of West William David Parkway between West Esplanade Avenue and Ursuline Street call themselves “The Mystic Krewe of Katrina.” And on the night of Aug. 29, they planned a reunion to come together to reminisce about the days, weeks, months and even years following the hurricane.
“There is no doubt that this is a tough time of year,” said Schlaudecker, who, like others, lived for many months or longer in a FEMA trailer while she rebuilt. “But I think it is important to commemorate those who are not with us any longer and to celebrate those who are still here.”
Judy Fern, with the help of several neighbors, organized the Aug. 29 event.
“As a neighborhood, we became very close 10 years ago,” Fern said. “At night, we would sit outside our FEMA trailers and talk. Before Katrina, when we saw one another, we waved to say ‘hello,’ and that was pretty much it. But since Katrina, many of us have become really good friends. And we are very grateful.”
In addition to food, refreshments and live music by the band Warped 5, homes were decorated, and commemorative T-shirts designed by Jimmy Broussard were worn by many of the residents.
The front of the white T-shirt depicts a red hurricane logo, along with a black-and-white FEMA trailer, as well as the year of Katrina and the year of the party.
“For my husband, Jimmy, and I, it is a bittersweet time of year, as I know it is for many others,” Debbie Broussard said. “It’s hard to forget how traumatic Katrina was for people throughout the entire New Orleans area. But the good always outweighs the bad, and because of what happened, we are closer as neighbors than before. The party is a celebration of our friendships.”
Lynn Mandella described her neighborhood and neighbors as “extraordinary.”
“We simply rallied around one another after our homes flooded,” said Mandella, who got back into her house just before Christmas 2006. Then, less than a month later, her husband of 49 years, George, died of congestive heart failure.
“Not only did our home flood, but we also lost a wholesale business George and I owned,” Mandella said. “The stress of this whole thing certainly had an effect on George’s health. But at least he was able to get back into his home before he died.
“Like many others, I lost belongings inside my home that meant a lot to me. But I can get over that because things can be replaced. The biggest loss for me was when my husband died. I often tell two things I came away with from all of this. The first is to always be prepared, and the second is to always be grateful for who and what you have in your life.”
Eva Jacob Barkoff writes about the people and events on the east bank of Jefferson Parish. She can be reached by calling (504) 430-8053 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.