New Orleans' 8th Ward

1 decade 2 years 6 months ago Wednesday, March 22 2006 Mar 22, 2006 Wednesday, March 22, 2006 10:46:58 AM CST March 22, 2006 in News

A team of KOMU reporters found no easy answer to that question when they went back to Louisiana.

Their first stop was New Orleans' 8th Ward, on their "Return to Ruin."

It's a tale of two cities, destroyed New Orleans and Columbia, Mo., a world away from the wreckage. But, for one New Orleans resident, the distance between the 8th Ward and mid-Missouri is heartbreaking.

"You're just like you're on an island by yourself," said Katrina evacuee Charles Dykes. "Like you left paradise to go sit on a lonely island by yourself."

Dykes' lonely island is a one-bedroom trailer in New Orleans. His paradise is in Columbia, Mo.

Dykes drove his family to Columbia to escape Katrina.

"You're used to being with your family," he explained. "And now you're here, they're there."

Dykes left his family in Columbia so he could return to help rebuild his city.

"I'm not used to seeing the city I was born and raised in just gone," he admitted.

Dykes returned to his truck-driving job, but he has no one to come home to at night--only the phone.

He blamed the federal government for the distance between him and his family.

"They would've been here to help work on the house, too. But, FEMA's a joke," he said.

Dykes asked for a trailer for his whole family, but he hasn't heard from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"It's just like I don't want to believe what happened," admitted Dykes.

But, his destroyed house forced him to believe.

"It was like a nightmare, something you see in the horror movies," Dykes remembered. "It was just like a ghost town."

Another evacuee, Brenda Brown, added, "I just stood there and cried as I went through the house, as I looked at the way things was."

A van floated across the street into Dykes' front yard when Katrina hit. Dykes said some neighbors died in the flood.

"Down the street, you could see where they had the marking for two people found dead," he recalled.

"It's sad to hear that," said Brown. "I'm like, maybe they would've been still living if it wasn't a disaster. Maybe they would've been still living."

Brenda's father barely survived when the levee broke and floodwaters swept away his 9th Ward house.

"The storm was hitting as I left Charles' house and I went to my house," said Archie Lambert, another Katrina survivor. "If I hadn't been on the second floor, I would've drowned."

Now, Lambert is in Columbia, too.

"The help I got in Columbia was a big, big, big help to me because I knew my family was secure," he said.

But, Columbia's not the end of the road.

"Seems like it? It is a long distance," said Lambert. "It's like a 12-hour drive going both ways, coming both ways.

Brown wants to go home, but she admitted, "It's a long distance and it's far away from one another."

"Stay strong," advised Lambert. "It's going to get better."

But, six months after the storm, no one knows when.

Dykes drives throughout Louisiana for a trucking company that lost haf its drivers after Katrina.

At 10:00 Tuesday night, as we "Return to Ruin," we'll take you inside the neighborhood where Missouri Task Force One worked six months ago.

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