Ninth Ward Postman Gets Back on His Route

The Lower Ninth Ward, one of the New Orleans neighborhoods most battered by Hurricane Katrina, began receiving mail again this week. Melissa Block talks with letter carrier Wayne Treaudo, who has delivered mail in the Ninth Ward for 15 years, about what it's like returning to his route.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And I'm Melissa Block.

In New Orleans, residents of the Lower Ninth Ward got their first mail deliveries this week, the first since Hurricane Katrina hit nearly a year ago. Up until Monday it was the only neighborhood in the city where mail service hadn't resumed. There are about 1,000 people back in the Lower Ninth Ward out of the 20,000 who once lived there.

Wayne Treaudo is one of two letter carriers now getting their mail to them. He spoke with me from along his mail route earlier today.

Mr. WAYNE TREAUDO (Postal Worker, Lower Ninth Ward): Right now I'm at Mr. Freeman's residence. I'm about to deliver him this piece of mail that says on the road to recovery from the Postmaster of New Orleans. Letting him know that periodicals, magazines and advertisement mail is going to be delivered.

BLOCK: Ah ha. And you've been delivering mail, I guess this would be day four for you now.

Mr. TREAUDO: That's correct. That's correct, and the customer seems to be really excited about me delivering their mail. I had a couple customers stop me and to let me know that they was back in the neighborhood so I could put them into the edit book.

BLOCK: So the idea is you're only supposed to be delivering mail to the people who are actually back in their homes?

Mr. TREAUDO: Yes, yes. That's where I'm delivering mail at, to those that are back in their homes or in their trailers.

BLOCK: How much more tricky does it make it for you to deliver the mail in a neighborhood that's in as bad a shape as the Ninth Ward still is?

Mr. TREAUDO: It can be very, very challenging. You really have to be cognizant of what you're doing because there's still debris out and you have traffic and then you have kids, they're in the street, so you have to watch out for the kids as you're traveling, but it's worthwhile.

BLOCK: Is it hard to figure out where the addresses are sometimes?

Mr. TREAUDO: I'm pretty much familiar with the neighborhood and most of them still do have their numbers on their houses or on their mailboxes, and one thing about a letter carrier, he will use deductive reasoning. If he doesn't see the number, then he begin to start computing in his head where it may go, and usually he's about 90 percent correct.

BLOCK: Right, you can do the math, right?

Mr. TREAUDO: Right, exactly.

BLOCK: What's your favorite memory from this week of when somebody saw you for the first time coming up with their mail?

Mr. TREAUDO: Their smile. Their warm smile. That they were so excited to see me deliver the mail. One gentleman said this is great because he had received his mortgage payment and so he was excited about that. For the most part, they're, I mean, everyone that I delivered to that saw me, they were really, really excited and glad that the delivery had started back in the Lower Ninth Ward.

BLOCK: Well, Mr. Treaudo it's good of you to talk with us. Thanks so much.

Mr. TREAUDO: It's my pleasure, I'm glad I was able to do so.

BLOCK: That's letter carrier Wayne Treaudo who started delivering mail to New Orleans's Lower Ninth Ward this week for the first time since Katrina.

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