Looking for Answers in Gentilly Neighborhood New Orleans is still off limits to most of its residents. NPR's Cheryl Corley drove to the city's Gentilly neighborhood to check out evacuee Mary Jacobs' home, and called her with a report.
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Looking for Answers in Gentilly Neighborhood

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Looking for Answers in Gentilly Neighborhood

Looking for Answers in Gentilly Neighborhood

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Some parts of New Orleans are being reopened, including the French Quarter, but the bulk of the city is still off limits to residents. Like thousands of others, Mary Jacobs is worried about her home. Jacobs and her husband evacuated with the first news of Hurricane Katrina. They and 14 other family members ended up in Chicago. Well, that's where NPR's Cheryl Corley first met them. Cheryl is now down in New Orleans, and she went to check up on Jacobs' property.

CHERYL CORLEY reporting:

Mary Jacobs is 48, a hotel worker. And this week I traveled to her home; it's in the Gentilly neighborhood, one of the hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina floodwaters. I gave Mary a call when I got there.

(Soundbite of telephone conversation)

CORLEY: Mary, are you there?

Ms. MARY JACOBS: Yeah, I'm right here.

CORLEY: Your house is right on the corner. Is it a pink house?

Ms. JACOBS: Yes, ma'am.

CORLEY: I'm going to park the car here, so I can tell you what's going on here.


CORLEY: All right, hold on. I'm just going to pull over. Yeah, OK, this big tree is, like, pulled up out of the roots here.


CORLEY: Your door is wide open.

Ms. JACOBS: I wonder why that'd be wide open.

CORLEY: They searched it today. They got a--today's date on here.

Ms. JACOBS: Did they write anything on my walls or anything, though, when you saw the front door open?

CORLEY: Well, the search-and-rescue crew put--you know, they put down that they've searched the house, and they didn't find any hazards in the house. That's a good sign. They have a zero-zero on there; that means that they did not find any hazards. So it looks like you might not have any structural damage, at least initially, to the house. Your walls may be intact. OK, I'm looking inside the door now. The door is open.


CORLEY: Your screen--your iron door is still there.


CORLEY: Oh, but inside your house--oh, your--you got a lot of--it's just stuff all over the place.

Ms. JACOBS: Are you able to see the big TV? I know that's full of water, too.

CORLEY: It's difficult to get to the television, even though it's large, 52 inches, and strategically situated on one of the sofas in the room. The blades on the ceiling fan are broken. The water marks left by the floodwaters are several feet high. The colors in some framed photographs have run together. A picture of the Last Supper hangs askew on the wall. There's no evidence of Mary's wedding photo, but there are other framed photos on the floor.

(Soundbite of telephone conversation)

CORLEY: OK, here. I'm picking up the picture of your daughter.

Ms. JACOBS: Oh, the picture of my daughter?

CORLEY: Yeah. Here's a picture of your son.

Ms. JACOBS: Oh, pictures of Evelyn(ph)...

CORLEY: I'm going to pick that up.

Ms. JACOBS: ...was still up there, the Lord's Supper and all.

CORLEY: The wall covering in the room has been ripped off the ceiling and the walls. Only strips remain. Before the hurricane, Mary was remodeling.

(Soundbite of telephone conversation)

Ms. JACOBS: That's what I was doing. Sure was...

CORLEY: You were...

Ms. JACOBS: ...the bathrooms and everything.

CORLEY: Yeah. Well...

Ms. JACOBS: I had just put toilets, vanity and mirror and all of that.

CORLEY: It is best to investigate in boots and gloves; the neighborhood is thick with mud. The floodwaters have been drained for the most part. Just the leftovers of the hurricane remain. In front of the house, one of the family cars is saturated with water and mud, the back window busted open. A neighbor's fence and a doghouse rests against it. There are bones in the garage.

(Soundbite of telephone conversation)

Ms. JACOBS: Our dog might have died. Our dog died, I think.

CORLEY: The loss is palpable on this street, a row of empty houses and vacant cars. There's no one here. But the houses, even in their dilapidated state, look much better than some of the others in town. Most of the windows in Mary's home are intact, and the roof still looks strong. But Jacobs says her home has been hit with floodwaters before; she's afraid it may not be salvageable.

(Soundbite of telephone conversation)

Ms. JACOBS: Cheryl, could you estimate when you think we'll be able to come like--I can come and see it for myself?

CORLEY: That might take a while. Only the French Quarter, the business district and the city's Algiers neighborhood are open to residents.

(Soundbite of telephone conversation)

Ms. JACOBS: All right. I appreciate everything, and I was glad you were there to tell me everything--what's up with the house.


Ms. JACOBS: Well, at least I feel a little better. Like you said, it wasn't as bad, you know, than some of the other little houses and stuff. Could you just keep me in touch and let me know, you know, when you think it's safe, that we're able to come through?

CORLEY: Yeah, I'll let you know.


CORLEY: I'll let you know.

Ms. JACOBS: Thank you for everything.

CORLEY: You're welcome. Bye-bye.

Ms. JACOBS: Oh, bye-bye, Cheryl.

NORRIS: That was NPR's Cheryl Corley speaking with New Orleans resident Mary Jacobs.

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