When Hurricane Katrina made landfall on Aug. 29, 2005, Gene Bischoff’s Chalmette home was near its horrible epicenter.
It’s a day he’ll never forget.
“The water was at least to the roof,” he said. “My ceilings were down. My front door caved in. There was a shrimp boat (that floated to land) about a block from my house. There were cracks in the bricks of the house, and the 2x4s were off center. I knew it wasn’t structurally sound. So I didn’t even attempt to rebuild. I moved to the north shore, and I didn’t look back.”
Exactly 10 years later, however, Bischoff and countless others will be looking back.
On Saturday, the New Orleans Track Club will host the Folgers Resilience Run/Walk to commemorate the 10-year anniversary of the storm that forever changed the City of New Orleans and many neighboring communities. The 2-mile event will be one of many anniversary gatherings that day, and at least 1,500 people are expected to take part.
Bischoff, and many other NOTC members, wouldn’t be surprised if that number is easily eclipsed.
“This race will have special meaning to me,” he said. “It sure will strike home for me. I moved on, but there are a lot things you can’t help but remember.”
The run/walk will begin and end at the Redhaus at 2820 St. Claude Ave. in the Bywater neighborhood. It will continue to Alvar Street, turn right to Royal Street, and right again at Clouet Street before bearing left on St. Claude.
The genesis of the Resilience Run/Walk was two years ago when an NOTC member contacted club officials; asking if they planned an anniversary event. NOTC Race Director Jennifer Neil presented the idea to the club’s board of directors, and it was agreed that the idea was a good one. About six months ago, Folgers (one of the first local businesses to reopen after Katrina) came on board as title sponsor.
The work then became about finding local nonprofits who could benefit from the run/walk. Ten were selected: Youth Run NOLA, Providence Community Housing, Café Reconcile, Volunteers of America, Habitat for Humanity, New Orleans Pride, St. Bernard Project, Friends of Lafitte Corridor, New Orleans Family Justice Center, and the Children’s Bureau of New Orleans.
“Each group told us about their (Katrina) stories and their own struggles,” Neil said.
NOTC races are known for a convivial (if not party-like) atmosphere — unusual for a running club, to be sure. But Neil said this event could be a bit more somber. She noted that there will be inspirational quotes printed on placards that will be placed throughout the course. Whatever the mood, she’s expecting a crowd.
“We’re not getting any money out of this, so it’s all about the charities,” Neil said. “If people want to come out for the race, or if they want to watch from the streets, I wouldn’t mind that at all. On race days, and for days leading up to it, I’ve got my head in the logistics of making a race happen. But this is one of those events that you just know people will get out to. I’m sure I’ll be emotional that day.”
Bischoff, who is a 40-year employee at the local Folgers facility, said he’ll probably be emotional on Saturday as well. But he said once he sees his friends, and when they gather after the run/walk, it’s sure to be a typical NOTC affair.
“Once the band cranks up, and we get to talking, we’re all going to have fun,” he said. “You have to.”
Registration for the Resilience Run/Walk on Saturday can be completed beginning at 7 a.m. at the Redhaus. Cost is $20 and includes the post-event party, food, drink and a T-shirt. Live music by the Big Easy Brawlers will follow. The Folgers choir will sing the National Anthem before the run/walk, which will begin precisely at 8:29 a.m. (a nod to the Aug. 29 landfall of Katrina).
A time clock will be placed at the start/finish line, but no timing chips will be used in this event.
“It’s not about competition,” Neil said. “It’s about coming together.”
For more information, go online to www.runnotc.org, check out the club’s Facebook page, or follow on Twitter or Instagram.