The drive around New Orleans was very eye-opening for me because the last time I was here was 3 months before Katrina and I really only stayed in the tourist areas. Now I was getting an up-close view of the devastation. Heather told us the story of how they left the night before Katrina hit and for an entire month, didn't know if their house was still standing. She drive us through areas that had been flooded and while I didn't see any FEMA trailers, I did see a couple houses with the "red x", a symbol of condemnation. She did say that a lot of progress has been made - many homes have been renovated - but it is quite obvious that a lot of work still needs to be done.
The major problem, and probably one of the reasons things are so slow to improve, is that the city is riddled with corruption. Many of the people who are supposed to be helping and leading instead are stealing and filling their own pockets. Heather is a teacher and she showed me pictures of the horrible conditions that she is expected to work in. It's literally something I would expect to see in a third world country; crumbling walls, filthy bathrooms, food rotting on floors, the list goes on. I don't know how she does it and I'm beginning to understand why New Orleans is the country's crime capital.
It has been a vicious cycle of poverty and lack of education for quite some time now. Children are raised on government handouts and have no sense of value or responsibility. Heather had to start charging for pencils because she got tired of spending her own money (orders placed by the school would arrive mysteriously half-empty) only to have the kids break them into pieces and throw them at each other. We saw a story on the news about an 8th grader who is serving a life sentence for murder. He got into a fight at school and went home only to be told by his mother to go back and "get his". She gave him the gun and was later acquitted of any charges.
It's a sad state of affairs that people in this country are still living this way. The fact that the average life span of a male in New Orleans is 24 years is appalling. I just wonder when someone is going to take a stand and do something to change it.