When Sonya Hill opens the door of her rebuilt shotgun house in the Lower 9th Ward she faces a reminder of the devastation Katrina brought. Directly across from her house is the spot where the levee broke five years ago.
It has since been rebuilt and sits higher than before the storm. It is an impressive wall of gray concrete meant to offer protection from future storms, but for Sonya Hill it is a reminder of everything that can go wrong.
āLooking at that wall, Iām thinking what if it breaks again? What if it breaks right in front of my door and Iām inside with my kids? I donāt feel safe back here if a hurricane comes through,ā she says.
When Katrina hit she was living in a different part of the 9th Ward and then moved to Houston, Texas. She says affordable housing is scarce in New Orleans and staying with her aunt is her only option.
āI didnāt think Iād come back,ā she says. āThen I got homesick and came home and now Iām back here, in front of the wall.ā
Across town in the Lakeview neighborhood, Roy Arrigoās rebuilt home backs up to the floodwall on the 17th Street Canal. A few houses up the block is where that floodwall gave way during the storm. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has patched the breech, but the section behind Arrigoās house is the same concrete wall that stood as Katrina pounded the city.
āThis is a fragile wall,ā he says.
He has become a neighborhood advocate pushing for what he calls āaccountabilityā at the Army Corps of Engineers.
āFive years ago we found out that we couldnāt trust what the Corps was saying about their work, we couldnāt trust their work, and since that time, no processes, no procedures have changed,ā he says. āNobodyās been fired, demoted, jailed, held accountable in any way.
āSo we see the work and weāre told about all of the progress, but can we trust it? To be honest, I donāt think we can.ā
In the Gentilly neighborhood, the house that Callie Brown shares with her sister Willean Brown sits across the street from the levee that holds back the London Avenue Canal. It gave way during Katrina and like the others has been rebuilt.
Callie says she is scared another storm will hit and the levees wonāt hold. She hopes the efforts to rebuild the levees will prove effective should another major hurricane hit, but she remains skeptical.
āI have to give the government the benefit of the doubt that the wallās going to hold. Well I try, but that donāt mean itās going to work,ā she says.
Her sister doesnāt worry about the levee. She puts her faith in a higher power.
āThey can build the wall as high as they want to. God has the power. If he wants to tear down a building low or high ā¦ he can knock it down.ā
āMy faith makes me feel safe here,ā she says. āYou donāt have to be afraid of where you live. You have to be afraid of God.ā