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Checking In With New Orleans' Honeysuckle Lane 15 Years After Hurricane Katrina


After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 15 years ago, this program got to meet and stay in touch with people on a cul-de-sac in New Orleans East.


JOHN BROWN: I was one of the luckier people out here in The East.

ROBERT SIEGEL: John Brown's duplex on Honeysuckle has an upstairs bedroom with the roof peeled off. Now it's more like a porch. And then there are the two chimneys on the north side, the backside of the building, one for each unit of the duplex.

CORNISH: Today we check in again with Honeysuckle Lane.

BROWN: My name is John E. Brown, and I live at 26 Honeysuckle Lane. And I am 75 years old.

CORNISH: What's it like seeing families come back over the years? I know there was kind of a lot of debate in the city about how it was changing. But for you, how did that feel?

BROWN: I knew one time I had said I wasn't coming back, but after visiting with my neighbors to my right and left, they sort of convinced me to come back and be a part of the community. And I did, and I'm sort of glad that I did. At that particular time, I was a young guy. But I had just turned 60, and I was retired.

CORNISH: That's young.

BROWN: (Laughter) Yes.

CORNISH: That's young enough to make some changes - right? - and to take a new turn.

BROWN: Right. Right. And the best thing about it - I was already retired when Katrina hit, so a lot of the problems that a lot of people had - I didn't have that problem.

CORNISH: John, can you tell us about the neighborhood? There were so many businesses that were closed in 2005 and 2006. What does it look like now?

BROWN: Well, we don't have any large stores. The only box store that we have are Super Wal-Mart. Out in the mall - Lake Forest Mall that we once had, where we had over 200 stores, we had a Lowe's. But they're closed, and the only thing we have is a Home Depot. And there's no food chains.

CORNISH: Yeah. Fifteen years is a long time. Do you feel like it's too long?

BROWN: It's too long, too long. We haven't progressed like I would have liked. And sometimes you feel like our part of the city of New Orleans - sort of like we are forgotten.

CORNISH: When you say forgotten, do you mean there are other areas of the city you feel like have gotten more resources or have just rebuilt faster?

BROWN: Probably gotten more resources, whereas we need on the east side of town, you know, places to go and eat. Our movie theater, which was closed down - we need some stores in this area also. We have a lot of progressive people that live in the East New Orleans.

CORNISH: When we check in with you again in a few years, what are your hopes for New Orleans East?

BROWN: Well, I hope New Orleans East will just grow and, you know, that we can be just safe for everybody and that we are able to be a place where anybody in the city of New Orleans will want to come and live.

CORNISH: John Brown, thank you so much for speaking with us and giving us the update on your life now.

BROWN: Thank you all for checking on me and keeping updated on Honeysuckle Lane.

CORNISH: John Brown in New Orleans East 15 years after Hurricane Katrina. He stayed put through Hurricane Laura today because he saw its path was not a threat.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOT CHIP SONG, "LOOK AT WHERE WE ARE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.