“Baby you are the strongest flower that ever grew. Remember that when the weather changes.”
Those 15 words welcome me to the Lower Ninth Ward, a part of New Orleans hit particularly hard by Hurricane Katrina.
The simple black text on an empty white billboard by poet Cleo Wade is a tribute to the city’s resolve.
More than 10 years since Katrina, the Lower Ninth is yet to recover. Only foundations remain on several lots. Others are derelict. Upturned trees crash through roofs. Mattresses and boats are dumped roadside.
Many residents haven’t returned. No wonder. Even with the funds to restore a home, why return to where family, friends and neighbours died?
I feel ignorant visiting as a tourist. I’m gawking at a destroyed neighbourhood like it’s an attraction.
Close to the water is Flood Street. Irony can be so cruel.