Despite differences in age, race, religion and hometowns, every person there has one thing in common: they are all taking another small step in trying to figure out the next chapter of their lives. Most are waiting for a free tetanus shot so they can return to areas devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
One elderly couple sits and holds hands. They've rented an apartment in Crowley so they can be near their children and grandchildren in Lafayette. They say the people in Crowley have been wonderful and helped them at every opportunity. Do they plan on returning home?
"We're from St. Bernard," says the man.
He doesn't need to say anything else.
Farther down the row of chairs, a middle-aged professional with a briefcase is next in line for a tetanus shot. "I'm going back today for the first time, but it's just a formality," he says. "I'm from Buras."
For so many people, the last six weeks have been an agonizing wait filled with questions. When will the water be safe to drink? What will my insurance company cover? Where will my children go to school? Who will be returning to my neighborhood?
How do I move forward and rebuild my life?
There are no easy answers to many of the questions, especially when issues of infrastructure, public safety and housing are involved. But the scene inside the Clifton Chenier Center is happening in different ways and locations across the state and country. At press time, every zip code in New Orleans except the lower Ninth Ward was open to residents and visitors, and in Cameron Parish and Lake Charles, homeowners and residents were surveying damage and trying to construct a post-Hurricane Rita plan of action. Somehow, some way, people are trying to move forward.
The psychological effects of the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita are palpable. Besides people directly impacted by the storms, there is a ripple effect for other residents that stretches across the state. Here in Lafayette, many citizens are helping our family, friends and neighbors from the east and west. For The Independent's cover story in this week's issue, contributing writer Jeremy Alford interviewed a number of people in Lafayette ' residents, evacuees, emergency responders, doctors and psychologists ' and chronicles the process of how we can start mending our spirits and psyche.
Even people directly unaffected by the hurricanes must process an avalanche of images and stories from the media ' and there's no telling how the quantity and placement of post-hurricane coverage will change in the coming months. Louisiana Press Association Director Pam Mitchell-Wagner told Alford she's concerned that post-hurricane coverage in regions outside of New Orleans and the affected areas will soon be phased out in favor of other stories.
A number of readers have asked when The Independent will start doing "non-hurricane" stories. To some extent, we've already done that with recent features and reviews in our Living Ind section; arts and entertainment and community events are a vital and important part of our community and provide an especially welcome respite in such turbulent times. And in our news section this week, a number of stories and items ' such as the controversial land swap between UL Lafayette and a local developer, the announcement that retail icon Abdalla's is closing down, and a new lawsuit filed by BellSouth over Lafayette Utilities System's fiber-to-the-home initiative ' reflect our unchanged commitment to covering stories and issues that impact the Lafayette community.
And continued post-hurricane coverage will undoubtedly be a part of our editorial mix. The impact of Katrina and Rita ' on everything from the state budget, tourism, our economy and countless other areas ' will continue to be profound and unexpected at times. We will report and write what it all means for Acadiana, and welcome your feedback.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.
WaPo Watergate editor Ben Bradlee dies; Clintons stump for Dems; Liberians stranded and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 22, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
"I am extremely disheartened by the political machines that are attempting to hijack my efforts along with others that advocate for children."
Landrieu, who is fighting to keep her seat for a fourth term, said that Ebola is serious and precautions should be taken, but she accused Republicans of using the virus outbreak in West Africa to "create fear" here at home.
Law enforcement agencies are participating in a "Louisiana Heroin Summit," designed to address the recent rise in heroin use and drug-related deaths around the state.
State education officials are preparing to release performance scores for public schools and public school districts.
Saints coach Sean Payton is starting a new week by emphasizing, repeatedly, the many good things he noticed during New Orleans' latest loss.
We will be offering our recommendations on the constitutional amendments tomorrow.
The justices did not comment in leaving in place lower court rulings that dismissed the lawsuits against BP and other companies involved in the worst U.S. offshore oil spill.
White registration is down by 7,700 voters while black registration has shot up by 7,100 voters.
Even though it had been rumored for months, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu finally pulled the trigger recently on a major campaign shakeup that moved control over to a few Big Easy insiders.
Louisiana's health department says it will seek law changes to stop billing sexual assault victims for exams and tests.
It wasn’t the historic slashes to higher ed funding or the ensuing tuition spikes that recently had LSU’s student body and faculty riled up in collective outrage.
Will $400 be enough for the re-election campaign of LPSB's Hunter Beasley to overcome two years of holding our school system hostage and hurting the education of our children all because of a personal dislike of the superintendent?
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham said Friday he expects his playing status in Detroit to be decided by coach Sean Payton on Sunday, shortly before the game.
Lawmakers have sidestepped a decision on whether they accept claims from Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration that the state closed last year's books with a nearly $179 million surplus.
Coming off the high of a fourth quarter comeback against Tampa Bay and a helpful bye week, linebacker Junior Galette sees a real turnaround coming for New Orleans' struggling defense.
Former President Bill Clinton, the Democratic Party's most popular surrogate this fall, is heading to Louisiana early next week for a campaign rally with U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
Time and again you hear people say DA Mike Harson is unbeatable because he's doled out political favors over the past 20 years. But a new lawsuit could end that speculation.