August 27th, 2010
08:55 AM ET

In the shadow of the levees

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.

“Looking at that wall, I’m thinking what if it breaks again? What if it breaks right in front of my door and I’m inside with my kids? I don’t feel safe back here if a hurricane comes through,” 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.

“I didn’t think I’d come back,” she says. “Then I got homesick and came home and now I’m back here, in front of the wall.”

Learn more about how the levees work

Across town in the Lakeview neighborhood, Roy Arrigo’s 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 Arrigo’s house is the same concrete wall that stood as Katrina pounded the city.

“This is a fragile wall,” he says.

He has become a neighborhood advocate pushing for what he calls “accountability” at the Army Corps of Engineers.

“Five years ago we found out that we couldn’t trust what the Corps was saying about their work, we couldn’t trust their work, and since that time, no processes, no procedures have changed,” he says. “Nobody’s been fired, demoted, jailed, held accountable in any way.

“So we see the work and we’re told about all of the progress, but can we trust it? To be honest, I don’t think we can.”

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 won’t hold. She hopes the efforts to rebuild the levees will prove effective should another major hurricane hit, but she remains skeptical.

“I have to give the government the benefit of the doubt that the wall’s going to hold. Well I try, but that don’t mean it’s going to work,” she says.

Her sister doesn’t worry about the levee. She puts her faith in a higher power.

“They 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 … he can knock it down.”

“My faith makes me feel safe here,” she says. “You don’t have to be afraid of where you live. You have to be afraid of God.”

soundoff (166 Responses)
  1. carol

    why did she move right there? why would anyone? was it cheap housing? I wouldn't trust it either i wouldn't have move there in first place knowing that mother nature can break it again. that the area can flood again. mother nature can cause things to happen to anyone anywhere. but don't go looking for trouble.

    August 28, 2010 at 8:47 pm | Report abuse |
  2. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    i don't know how to verify the equation of whether power used this way would create recovery of power as well as a lot of excess power to sell elsewhere. theresa noelle younan ymma-iii

    August 28, 2010 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  3. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    actually there's no time to fool with my plan in a scale model version to prove that what i technically beleive is true. it has to just be implemented. if it works it works and there's all the hydro electric power to gain. if it doesn't you at least solve the flooding problems which are of an emergency nature. theresa noelle younan. ymma-iii other countries with similar flooding situations would need this same system probably. nation of nations trans ocean transcontinental

    August 28, 2010 at 8:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mrs b

    For ppl to get on here and say half of the words they have said HOW DARE YOU.So U mean to not think none of these ppl paid taxes and they just want to suck the system dry some of you need to realize that you are not the only one payen taxes and a lot of ppl have lost they lives and the only things they have known what was once call home have you ever heard that sayen HOME IS WERE THE HEART IS these ppl have been through a lot and keepen faith those so call taxes you cry about don't mean nothin it can't bring back what was once a life or a home full of history These ppl got a harsh memory that will stick with them the rest of there lives have you all have any heart left an ya selfish soul GOD PLEASE FORGIVE these ppl for they not no what they say !GOD BLESS

    August 28, 2010 at 9:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    Implementing a Water Redistribution System is the same as creating tributaries to the main flood water bodies. perhaps there aren't enough offshoot streams and rivers in those areas and that is why there is flooding to begin with. theresa noelle younan ymma-iii. the picture of the canal looks like it's going to flood soon because it is at the top rim of the breakwall.

    August 28, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Report abuse |
  6. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    But considering how many other countries are flooding and other areas in the same countries are flooding in summary what you have is a problem where the oceans are dominating the land masses so therefore a major major international solution has to be effected. theresa noelle younan ymma-iii

    August 28, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    quite possibly we are sinking into the oceans as well. theresa noelle younan ymma-iii

    August 28, 2010 at 9:23 pm | Report abuse |
  8. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    we may have lost massive underground bases to land surface from the core area of the earth for some other reasons. theresa noelle younan ymma-iii.

    August 28, 2010 at 9:27 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    OMG...I cannot believe what some are saying here! We all expect the government to pick up the tab for many things. That Viagra your Medicare paid dollars, the firefighters dousing the payer funded and the list goes on and on. Andrew devastated South Florida and who helped fund the rebuilding? The tax payer is the answer you are looking for!! Regardless of where we live the government is called upon to save us all the time!! Those of us living along the border would be overrun if not for tax payer funded border protection. Everyone is calling for more of that by the way!! Live and let live folks! If these fine people wish to make NO their be it...and if they want government help when things go be it! We bail out the fine folks of Iowa every other year (those national guard troops sand bagging...guess what TAX PAYER FUNDED!). When your mortgage went down the crapper and you job dried up.. .who did you call? Oo...your fellow Americans that's who! When crops are destroyed and the farm is about to be taken by the bank (which by the way ran to the government for help) who is asked to help??? So if you can no longer raise the flag beyond half mast without that magic pill we all paid for...stop f-ing! Otherwise...have a ounce of compassion and realize we are all in this together and that we are going to make mistakes. When we make those mistakes (sometimes repeatedly) we all ask for help. We all live in a glass house here we not throw stones!!

    August 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • johnny orlando

      some people just had crappy parents, thats why they are like that

      August 28, 2010 at 9:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    the issue of climate change isn't the real issue as i've stated before. theresa noelle younan ymma-iii y-research management

    August 28, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Report abuse |
  11. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    it's the topography science in relation to climate and influenced by man-made activity. theresa noelle younan ymma-iii

    August 28, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. YounanMarketingAndManagementAssociatesInc, Int'l Intst''r

    topography involves the study of earthquake activity as well. theresa noelle younan ymma-iii

    August 28, 2010 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Beth

    People living in generational poverty cannot go anywhere else. This is all they know. If NOLA dies, so does a lot of the US.

    August 28, 2010 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      it died a long time ago

      August 29, 2010 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  14. me in katrina too

    Ok New Orleans this was on the 30th of the month what happen to the people that it happen to on the 29th of the month in MISSISSIPPI I guess this does not count cause we had the eye of the storm to come down on us and not have and story to come and say hey people of MISSISSIPPI they are trying to get there selfs together or they had to move away cause of Katrina no you don't here anything of that nature but you we here and see picture of NEW ORLEANS ALL DAY LONG .AGAIN WE ARE PUT TO THE SIDE POOR MISSISSIPPI CAN GET ANYTHING AGAIN me standing in water up to my neck to 6 hours wow i see that just don't get it . this is something i will never forget but we the people in mississippi they can see us anyway. and this is not about the tax payer money u just live it and see for your self then say that.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:09 am | Report abuse |
    • haley

      yes thank you! MS was put on the back burner! That is what i was saying earlier!! When you turn on the TV and you see Katrina what is the city that you see? NEW ORLEANS! NOT MS! Also how waveland was completely destroyed and then some jerk wants to tell me what is sad!

      August 30, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hurricane Katrina Survivor

    I am so hurt by the comments that are posted. I have seen so much hate since I have been out of Slidell, La. I want to go back just so I can get some TLC. This is no longer the United States of America to me, it is now the Divided States of America. I am not lazy, I have lost everything I worked for, I have lost everything my deceased parents have worked for, I have lost everything my grandparents had worked for, and how can you judge me when you have not walked a mile in my shoes. I have not had a full time job since I left New Orleans, La. I drove trucks for 9 years to take of my son, and I am a Bookkeeper by trade. Now I am living below poverty level now, and on the verge of being homeless. Just like so many other Americans that are college educated, and now all of our jobs have been outsourced to make a better life for people overseas because they provided cheaper labor. Try rebuilding your entire life, without a steady income. Just like it happened to me, it could happen to you. I see nobody is speaking of all the children that has been affected by the nightmare of Hurricane Katrina. I ask God to wake me up every day from this nightmare I have been living for the past 5 years. My savings account is now depleted, and I am stuck in my 6th place of residency in 5 years. Please do not judge me, if you have not walked in my shoes. Just pray that it never happens to you and your family. I worked all my life, and paid taxes. 2,000.00 from F.E.M.A. and homeless 3 times because they did not pay the rent. If you can give me my life back, give me my brand new house back that I never lived in, give me back my inheritance from my deceased parents and grandmother, give me back my vehicle, give me back my job where I made 650.00 a week, give me back my spirit to fight another day, give me back pictures of my son as a baby, give me back pictures of my parents, give me back my bank accounts, and give me back my peace of mind. You think it can not happen to you and your family, You better think again, and stop being so hurtful. Because God can deem it upon you and yours for judging other people who you know nothing about. Instead of being Judgmental, Be Thankful that it did not happen to you and your family.

    August 29, 2010 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Charles

      god bless you and the rest that prevailed. May you all find peace, and find it really soon. I have a good friend who wound up near me in Ohio after he had to evacuate, and I know how he suffers and lives with his losses. I hope to God that all of you get repaid by some type of Karma cuz you deserve it. I am thankful it wasn't me. I visited New Orleans many times in the past for work and pleasure, and I almost stayed in '82. but thank god again I've seen a very few good news articles as of late, and (at least to me) they show some hope, some healing, some return of people to a happier life. I hope you all find some inner peace and a better life. Sincerely, Charles

      August 29, 2010 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
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