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 fight to clean up Lafayette Parish could get some added ammunition with two ordinances up for votes Tuesday by the City-Parish Council targeting litter-bugs.
By striking a deal to lessen the blow of health insurance changes on state workers, school employees and retirees, Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration lowered the volume of criticism but gave itself and local school boards a new budget headache.
With the airport tax coming up for a parishwide vote in about a week, the Broussard City Council and its mayor have come out in support of the proposal.
Protesters rallied peacefully in several Louisiana cities in the wake of the Missouri grand jury decision not to indict a police officer in the fatal shooting of Michal Brown.
US cities bidding on Olympics; Guard prevents more Ferguson riots; storm threatens travel and more national and international news for Wednesday, November 26, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The U.S. rep billed LSU for work allegedly performed on the same days Congress voted on major legislation and held important committee hearings on energy and the ACA.
Abysmally low participation by the public has prompted the council to scuttle the 2014 survey with plans to simplify it and try again next year.
The village now says the ordinance will likely be overturned and authorities will more vigorously enforce existing leash laws.
Bill Cassidy cast an early ballot Tuesday, seeking to draw renewed attention to a race that has fallen off newspaper front pages and away from people's minds as they plan holiday meals and shopping schedules.
Battered all night by Baltimore's relentless pass rush, Drew Brees could feel his protection collapsing and Terrell Suggs getting ahold of him as he urgently unloaded a pass to the right flat toward tight end Jimmy Graham.
After a convincing defeat at the polls on Nov. 4, Earl “Nickey” Picard has decided to let bygones be bygones with his former right-hand man Brian Pope, announcing his support for his former employee’s runoff bid to become Lafayette’s next city marshal.
Saturday the athletic department did everything possible to ensure the 2014 Ragin’ Cajun seniors remembered fondly their last home game. Rain and lightning never arrived but turbulence did in the form of the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
Even stranger than the Republican Party’s decision to hold a “unity rally” earlier this month for Congressman Bill Cassidy in a Baton Rouge bar, Huey’s Bar, was the fact that the establishment was named after Louisiana’s most famous Democrat.
Bar Code is not a gay bar.
After failing to pass a medical marijuana bill last year, state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, is telling supporters he will return in 2015 with legislation that focuses on different applications like oils and pills.
Voters, obviously, are not yet tuned into the 2015 ballot, despite the intriguing races it will host.
By now, the story of how longtime LSU coach Dale Brown discovered Shaquille O'Neal has been told many times: Brown happened upon a massive 13-year-old at an army base in Germany, stayed in touch with him and eventually became like a second father.
Fate simply wasn't ready to give the New Orleans Saints a break from longtime nemesis Steve Smith.
Lafayette Police have had a busy day.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration will use $130 million in patchwork financing from a tax amnesty program, insurance settlement, uninsured motorist penalties and other excess funds to close most of the state's midyear budget deficit.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said she disagrees with President Barack Obama's actions on immigration, hoping the latest controversy doesn't worsen her campaign difficulties.
Gay-rights advocates challenging Louisiana's same-sex marriage ban announced Thursday that they have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review their case before it is heard by a federal appeals court.
Thinking himself the “son of God,” the man charged with the 2013 killing of an officer of the Chitimacha Tribal Police will not stand trial following a ruling Thursday on his mental competency.
Either Saints coach Sean Payton doesn't want to tip Baltimore off as to who'll start in New Orleans' secondary on Monday night, or he really doesn't know yet.