Life in Lakeview, New Orleans Before Hurricane Katrina

Before Hurricane Katrina hit, Lakeview, New Orleans was described as an idyllic neighborhood filled with nice houses and an educated, hard-working community.


| August 2012



We Shall Not Be Moved

In “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Tom Wooten presents vivid narratives through the eyes and voices of residents rebuilding their homes after Hurricane Katrina, telling a story of resilience as entertaining as it is instructive and how citizens, remarkably, turned a profound national failure into a story of hope.

COURTESY BEACON PRESS

The neighborhood of Lakeview, New Orleans was a gem nestled in a poor and crime-ridden city. Geographically isolated from the rest of New Orleans, this neighborhood filled with educated professionals and generations of families was able to flourish. Despite Lakeview’s large size — 17,000 residents and 7,000 homes — the neighborhood formed a cohesive and strong community with the help of the Lakeview Civic Improvement Assocation. Residents even created their own special tax district in order to support a private neighborhood police force. Tom Wooten’s We Shall Not Be Moved provides a portrait of Lakeview, New Orleans before Hurricane Katrina and tells the story of how the citizens of five New Orleans neighborhoods rebuilt the city they loved. This excerpt is taken from Chapter 1, “Very Much at Home.” 

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It was late afternoon on Sunday, August 29, 2005. Terry Miranda, a white man in his late fifties, craned his neck to peer out the rear windshield as the storm that had sent his city into exile churned on the horizon over the Gulf of Mexico. The storm’s first fast-moving outer bands had already set upon the westbound traffic that inched forward on Interstate 10, turning the sky above the cars every hue of gray. Leveling his gaze to the horizon, back toward his home, Terry was struck to see that the distant sky was nearly black.

Katrina was casting a dark, slowly advancing shadow across the earth. Bolts of lightning—far too distant to be accompanied by claps of thunder—leapt through the darkness to the ground. The storm posed the cars on this stretch of highway no serious danger. It would be hours before the worst of its winds and waves would surge ashore, and the traffic was already well to the west of the area forecast to bear the brunt of the damage. Still, a shudder ran through Terry’s spine as he turned his attention away from the dark sky.

Beside him, Terry’s sister sat at the wheel, clutching it tightly and keeping her eyes fixed on the taillights ahead. The faces Terry beheld in the myriad car windows around them were etched with tension. In his nearly six decades of life in New Orleans, Terry had seen his share of hurricanes, but no other storm had spooked his city this way. At 9:30 a.m., Mayor Ray Nagin had ordered the first mandatory evacuation in New Orleans history. Shortly thereafter, the normally stoic National Weather Service released an uncharacteristically desperate bulletin, warning of “devastating damage” that would leave “at least one half of well-constructed homes” destroyed. Those lucky enough to survive, it warned, would experience “human suffering incredible by modern standards” in its aftermath.

Before the mandatory call to evacuate that Sunday morning, Terry was not sure he was going to leave. For one thing, he had weathered a number of hurricanes at home and was no worse for wear. For another, he did not own a car, never having lived outside of Orleans Parish. He walked to the nearby shops in his neighborhood, a predominantly white and upper-middle-class area of the city known as Lakeview, and until his retirement several years before, he had ridden his bicycle to and from his job investigating cases of fraud at a state food stamp office.