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.
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Wednesday, April 23, 2014:
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”