Andy Kopsa is a New York-based freelance journalist who once called New Orleans home. She was back in the Big Easy this week, although it was anything but a party when couldn’t return to New York as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Frustrated and worried about her husband, friends and city, she got to work asking survivors of Katrina to speak to those still reeling from Sandy for advice and wisdom.
“Who better than the people of New Orleans to talk to the people of NYC right now,” Kopsa wrote on SandyKatrina.Tumblr.com, a site she created for those who lived through Katrina to share photos of themselves holding up notes for those living through Sandy. “They know, they lived through Katrina. They are still living with it seven years later.
The photos are moving and the project is ongoing. Here are some of those that have been collected so far:
It’s not about the material things, it’s about each other. 1 of 12Calvin was living Uptown before Katrina. He was evacuated to seven different cities starting with San Antonio, TX. But, he managed to get back. After he did he opened his own barber shop. When asked what he would say to New Yorkers, he paused for a minute before he said it's not about the material things…
It shapes you. 2 of 12Lauren was in Baton Rouge covering Katrina for a local news channel. She sat through FEMA news conferences hearing about the horrors in her hometown of New Orleans. At one of those pressers it was announced the roof was flying off the Superdome. Lauren couldn't believe what she was hearing. She thought my God, I have to go on air and report this in two minutes.
Be resilient. Y’all will make it through this because y’all been through hell before. 3 of 12John's home never lost power during Katrina, but a block down they did - he was lucky. But he did evacuate to just north of Baton Rouge for the storm. When he came back, he said all the leaves off the Oak in his front yard were ripped off, but the garbage cans didn't even move. He's a native of The Lower Ninth Ward where his people ran a grocery.
I’m been there. Just keep moving on. 4 of 12Alvin had a home in Mid City. It was his mother's place. He evacuated to Baton Rouge the day before the storm. When he finally came back, the water receded and the watermark was halfway up the first floor wall; his roof, partially torn off, had let in the rain. Alvin wishes they could have kept the property in the family but the federal program Road Home offered them less than it was worth but with his mother aging, they had to sell. He can't watch too much of the Sandy coverage because of his memories of Katrina.
Desctruction is a very rough road but it also breeds creation! 5 of 12Wendy grew up on the North Shore of Lake Pontchatrain. Her family had evacuated for many storms over the years but had seen nothing lining up to hit NOLA like Katrina. She wants New Yorker's to know the road back is rough but it can breed creativity.
Everyday will get better. Just be patient. 6 of 12Gogo and her (now) husband evacuated ahead of Katrina with six cats and her neighbor's goat. Her 200 guest wedding was scheduled for October 1 but because of the hurricane couldn't happen. Telling the story today in her jewelry shop on Magazine Street, Gogo starts to cry. Later after they came home and when the mail started again, she received a pile of RSVPs. She didn't keep them but now kind of wishes she did so she could make them into an art project.
(Gogo got married - happily - later in 2005).
PRAY 7 of 12Yolanda lived through Katrina. She talked to me, told me we need to just hang in there. When asked what she would like to tell New Yorkers, she gave me a hug and said "pray".
Compassion! 8 of 12Kristy not only lived through Katrina in Central City, she went on search and rescue through Lakeview and City Park. In one of the neighborhoods, yelling through the buildings for survivors, Kristy saw a body tied to the porch of a house. Her companions, addressing her shock said, "at least his family will be able to find his body".
In our prayers with many condolences. 9 of 12James was stationed in Cuba during Katrina. But during Isaac, he did search and rescue. He has a buddy who is living in Manhattan
Inner strength 10 of 12Laura evacuated her home in the Irish Channel to Alabama. Then to Pennsylvania. Then to New York and New Jersey. Finally she came home around October 2, 2005. Two days later her power was finally restored. Katrina hit August 29, 2005.
Believe in your neighborhood! 11 of 12From Heather:
"I am a 5th generation New Orleanian. My family has weathered many floods and even yellow fever. But, Katrina took every ounce of strength for us to rebuild. I was living back at my child hood home at the time the storm hit trying to get my fledging business off the ground. It is located in Metairie, a suburb about 20 minutes outside of New Orleans. My parent's home was flooded with over a foot of water from Katrina. I ended up being evacuated to Tulsa, Oklahoma to stay with my sister's family. One of my dogs that had evacuated with me died in Oklahoma within a week of the hurricane hitting. It was a devastating loss which still lives with me today. I cried tears so hard while evacuated that sometimes I couldn't breathe. And, a deep depression settled over me until I was able to return home. My business is my very own love letter to New Orleans. It is based upon my NOLA photography. So, I knew my body of work was more relevant than ever after Katrina. I had to get back HOME. I was gone from my beloved New Orleans for over 3 months. When I returned it was encouragement from friends, family and customers that held me together emotionally. And, my photography became my Post Katrina therapy. So, I would tell everyone in NY and NJ to keep the faith. Try to be patient with yourself and those around you. Please remember your recovery is not a sprint. It's a marathon. Change will not come overnight. Be ready for twists and turns as the recovery unfolds. And, if you need to talk to someone, do it! Don't bottle your emotions up. If you want to fall to your knees and cry, do it! Your loss is palpable and it's okay to cry your eyes out till they are red and bloodshot. Not only does your neighborhood have to recover, YOU will have to heal from this tragic loss. Lastly, remember this: When you think the nation has moved on in the days of 24 hour cable news, think again. New Orleans intimately knows your pain and we are thinking of each of you in the long term. We are holding you up in prayer in your darkest moments. We have walked in your shoes. Keep your chin up. Take it day by day. And, don't ever forget NOLA loves y'all!"
Photo courtesy of Heather
Patience is key to survival. Pray and help your neighbors. Now is not the time to be selfish but thankful . . . because you survived! 12 of 12This is another NOLA resident sending in their own photo and words for NYC'ers: "I'm DeShawn. I grew up in New Orleans East and even though I left for the storm…a family rule that stands anything above a Category 2 we leave. We were only 2 hours away from New Orleans but the atmosphere was so different compared to what was going on a short distance away. After seeing the Twin Span torn to pieces, the only thing that repeated in my mind was, "There's nothing left. Even if there is, how can we get home? The bridges are gone." The one place I lived my entire life, was now a shell of what it used to be. After the frustration of trying to seek normality and being in a home with 25 other people, it was patience that brought us all through it. We were all in the same boat. per say, but we had to pull together in order to survive. The photo says it all. Be patient. Waiting in long lines for simple means of survival is frustrating, but look at the bigger picture. All material possessions can be replaced. Your life is the most valuable thing you have…YOU SURVIVED!!"
Photo courtesy of DeShwan
All photos and captions used with permission from Andy Kopsa and SandyKatrina.Tumblr.com
Head on over to SandyKatrina.Tumblr.com for updates and more photos from Hurricane Katrina survivors to Hurricane Sandy survivors.
* Andy acknowledges Katrina victims weren’t limited to New Orleans, and Sandy victims aren’t limited to New York City. She writes: “This doesn’t seek to take attention away from or ignore the devastation on the rest of the eastern seaboard. NOLA and NYC just happen to be those places to which I am deeply, emotionally attached. Consider it a love letter from NOLA (and the Gulf Coast) to all Sandy victims
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