ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Now we're going to talk to one of the residents of Honeysuckle Lane. That's the street in New Orleans East that we've been following in the aftermath of Katrina. Joanne Arnaud lives at number 45 Honeysuckle Lane.
Welcome to the program.
Ms. JOANNE ARNAUD (New Orleans Resident): Thank you.
SIEGEL: And we should say you're not obviously at home. You're in San Antonio now.
Ms. ARNAUD: Yes.
SIEGEL: Well, what have you heard and what do you plan to do now?
Ms. ARNAUD: I still plan to come back. What I actually had been waiting for more than that was the flood plans to come out from FEMA.
SIEGEL: Now help us piece together this puzzle. What will you learn from the flood plans from FEMA that would contribute to your planning here?
Ms. ARNAUD: Well, what we're waiting for is, if we had to build up higher.
SIEGEL: And you folks on Honeysuckle, you don't really know whether your neighborhood requires further elevation or not.
Ms. ARNAUD: Right. So it's a little iffy and tricky right now as to what do we do.
SIEGEL: You're facing a problem here which is not just individual, but it's communal in nature. That is, if only a small share, a third or 40 percent of the folks in your neighborhood, decided to come back, that would suggest that there isn't critical mass there to keep a community going with real municipal services.
Ms. ARNAUD: Yeah.
SIEGEL: So in a way you're depending not just on own your own decision, but that your neighbors, or the majority of them...
Ms. ARNAUD: Sure.
SIEGEL: ...will make a decision like yours.
Ms. ARNAUD: Yes. That's really the truth and, you know, that's really the unknown part, because you don't know if people are going to come back, and you keep hearing talks about, you know, that they want to turn the East back into a swamp, and you're thinking, well, you know, I want to come back to my home, and I don't want that to happen.
SIEGEL: You're in San Antonio.
Ms. ARNAUD: Yes.
SIEGEL: There are other people from New Orleans East in Atlanta. There are other people in Arkansas and Mississippi, all over--Baton Rouge, for sure. Are you able to keep in touch at all with one another?
Ms. ARNAUD: I hear about--from my families off the Internet. I have talked to my sister-in-law, who's in Mississippi. We were able to get each other's phone number and we're talking. I have some friends that I do call and talk to them, and you just hear about them through somebody else. If you talk to someone else, you'll say, `Oh, I talked to so-and-so. They're doing OK.' We're able to keep in touch.
SIEGEL: What kind of damage did you have in your house?
Ms. ARNAUD: We had major damage as far as the roof is concerned. Because of the roof damage, we've had water in the house, and when the water came in, of course, the mold came in because the house was closed up.
SIEGEL: Now have you done work on the house already in your absence from, you know...
Ms. ARNAUD: No, we've done no work on the house.
SIEGEL: So a moratorium on construction doesn't affect anything that you've already begun at this point.
Ms. ARNAUD: Yes.
SIEGEL: Is there some question which, if it were answered one way or the other, is the red light, green light about your going back home, something which if you--if it were the wrong answer, you'd say, `Maybe back to New Orleans but not back to New Orleans East?'
Ms. ARNAUD: We're gonna go back, but we don't want to fix up anything and then they come back and they say, `Oh, this has to happen or this--or that has to happen.'
SIEGEL: Some of the questions surrounding the rebuilding of New Orleans are about, well, what I'd call social infrastructure. Are there going to be schools? Is there going to be a working hospital? Are there going to be commercial services? Are there going to be, you know, institutions of community around you if you go back?
Ms. ARNAUD: Yeah.
SIEGEL: What do you think?
Ms. ARNAUD: Well, if the people come back, I'm sure that those things will come back so I--you know, that's one of the things that you hope and pray for is that people do come back so that other services will come back and your area can become viable again.
SIEGEL: But on the other hand, you're competing with another time line. Right after Katrina we heard somebody cite the--evidently the conventional wisdom that after around eight months or so, people who've been away from the city, you know, they start to lose the desire to come back. You have people who settle in where they've been after several months.
Ms. ARNAUD: Yeah, yeah, that's the other thing. That's what I was saying, you know, that people who are away a lot longer may not want to come back, you know. Hopefully they'll--that New Orleans lure will pull them back, though.
SIEGEL: Thank you very much, Mrs. Arnaud.
Ms. ARNAUD: Thank you. Bye-bye.
SIEGEL: That's Joanne Arnaud of Honeysuckle Lane in New Orleans East speaking to us from San Antonio, where she's been living for the past several months.
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