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Checking In With New Orleans' Honeysuckle Lane 15 Years After Hurricane Katrina

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 15 years ago, this program got to meet and stay in touch with people on a cul-de-sac in New Orleans East.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED NPR BROADCAST)

JOHN BROWN: I was one of the luckier people out here in The East.

ROBERT SIEGEL: John Brown's duplex on Honeysuckle has an upstairs bedroom with the roof peeled off. Now it's more like a porch. And then there are the two chimneys on the north side, the backside of the building, one for each unit of the duplex.

CORNISH: Today we check in again with Honeysuckle Lane.

BROWN: My name is John E. Brown, and I live at 26 Honeysuckle Lane. And I am 75 years old.

CORNISH: What's it like seeing families come back over the years? I know there was kind of a lot of debate in the city about how it was changing. But for you, how did that feel?

BROWN: I knew one time I had said I wasn't coming back, but after visiting with my neighbors to my right and left, they sort of convinced me to come back and be a part of the community. And I did, and I'm sort of glad that I did. At that particular time, I was a young guy. But I had just turned 60, and I was retired.

CORNISH: That's young.

BROWN: (Laughter) Yes.

CORNISH: That's young enough to make some changes - right? - and to take a new turn.

BROWN: Right. Right. And the best thing about it - I was already retired when Katrina hit, so a lot of the problems that a lot of people had - I didn't have that problem.

CORNISH: John, can you tell us about the neighborhood? There were so many businesses that were closed in 2005 and 2006. What does it look like now?

BROWN: Well, we don't have any large stores. The only box store that we have are Super Wal-Mart. Out in the mall - Lake Forest Mall that we once had, where we had over 200 stores, we had a Lowe's. But they're closed, and the only thing we have is a Home Depot. And there's no food chains.

CORNISH: Yeah. Fifteen years is a long time. Do you feel like it's too long?

BROWN: It's too long, too long. We haven't progressed like I would have liked. And sometimes you feel like our part of the city of New Orleans - sort of like we are forgotten.

CORNISH: When you say forgotten, do you mean there are other areas of the city you feel like have gotten more resources or have just rebuilt faster?

BROWN: Probably gotten more resources, whereas we need on the east side of town, you know, places to go and eat. Our movie theater, which was closed down - we need some stores in this area also. We have a lot of progressive people that live in the East New Orleans.

CORNISH: When we check in with you again in a few years, what are your hopes for New Orleans East?

BROWN: Well, I hope New Orleans East will just grow and, you know, that we can be just safe for everybody and that we are able to be a place where anybody in the city of New Orleans will want to come and live.

CORNISH: John Brown, thank you so much for speaking with us and giving us the update on your life now.

BROWN: Thank you all for checking on me and keeping updated on Honeysuckle Lane.

CORNISH: John Brown in New Orleans East 15 years after Hurricane Katrina. He stayed put through Hurricane Laura today because he saw its path was not a threat.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOT CHIP SONG, "LOOK AT WHERE WE ARE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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