One morning in February, during one of my first days building in New Orleans, I was saddened to see that sacks of concrete had been uncovered by the wind during a storm, and were set solid, still in the sack. There were thiry sacks in one stack and ten in another. It made the concrete useless for our purposes and seemed to my eyes to be a terrible waste of resources. Shortly, however, an elderly man and a young man drove up in a pick-up and began loading the smaller stack into the pick-up bed. Curious, I went to ask them what they were doing. The elderly man responded that he had just finished rebuilding his house, and he could use these blocks of concrete to build a retaining wall on the property. His eyes lit up when I mentioned the additional sacks in the back, which he took as well (with the blessing of a Habitat employee). The man looked at the sacks and saw building blocks instead of ruined concrete.
Yesterday, a police officer drove up to the house we were working on and asked what organizations were assisting people with rehabilitating existing homes. He and his wife lived a few blocks away and he was eager to fix up their home. He was looking for resources to help. This is something that the residents of this city have become experts at- seeking and using any and all resources in rebuilding. This resourcefulness belies a determination to revive the city, and seeing it on a regular basis is encouraging. The morning sights at the Musicians' Village is encouraging as well- generally around 200 people congregate to listen to introductions and safety instructions before being split out for each house under construction. Even now, nearly two years after Katrina, each day different hundreds help rebuild.
Today I worked on putting up siding with Mark and Brian, both Southwest employees from Phoenix. Southwest collected its employees for a management meeting in New Orleans and brought them in a day early so that they could help rebuild before holding their meetings. There are a great number of companies that send their employees to help rebuild, generally for a day or two. A Louisiana bank did the same thing yesterday.
I'm going sailing tonight!