Dig Baton Rouge

Essay: Together we will recover and rebuild our city

By Greta Jines, DIG photo editor

These words are filling the space where a fashion spread was supposed to be. Normally, that would be the perfect piece for an entertainment magazine like DIG, but maybe normal isn’t what we need this month.

The reality is that our community has faced a natural disaster. A disaster that has displaced families and destroyed homes. Baton Rouge and Louisiana itself are no strangers to the water but, once again, the water has proven itself to be both friend and foe.

I called Louisiana home when Hurricane Katrina hit the area and still 11 years later when my current home of south Louisiana experienced historic flooding. Both times, I was fortunate enough to sustain minimal to no damages to my home and belongings.

My second floor apartment kept me, my roommate and guests safe and, even in our flooded complex, the inside of our cars remained fairly dry in the rising waters. We spent that weekend checking in with friends and family in the area via text or email. But we also spent the weekend watching Netflix or playing card games.

When our complex drained after a few days, the sun was shining and it felt like the worst was over. We’d made it through the Great Flood of 2016 and lived to tell the tale. I dropped off supplies at Celtic Studios with a friend and went back to working toward a deadline for the magazine. I knew others in Baton Rouge and surrounding parishes had fared far worse from watching the news, but for the most part, everything felt stable.

It wasn’t until a photo assignment for work took me to the Central area that I realized the gravity of the situation.

As I left the outskirts of the city, I began to realize how incorrect my thinking had been.
I passed the sign welcoming drivers to the city of Central and continued down a street lined with items that used to make these houses homes. Families had piled up the contents of their houses at the street to be thrown away. Beds, children’s toys and the walls themselves were just a few items among the many that had now become trash. Some were still dragging items out as I passed by.
They say time flies when you’re having fun. I can assure you it passes much more slowly in situations like these. It felt like the longest street I had ever driven down. These people’s worlds had been turned upside down and inside out, literally.

I ventured out farther into the city, only to realize that the surrounding subdivisions were the same way. The piles of belongings nearly spilled out into the road in some places.

I couldn’t believe I thought it was almost over. After a cop car had advised people to turn around in one area, I began driving back home through Denham Springs where the houses turned into businesses, but their fate was the same. It seemed nothing had remained untouched, including the strip of antique shops where I used to shop with my mom and grandma.

Sitting in my car, I started to cry. I was upset for the people who I didn’t know and the ones I did and frustrated with myself for being so naive. I couldn’t quite bring myself to ask people about their fashion choices when there were families who were now homeless, some with little to no clothing in their possession. I knew my job and assignments were still important but they needed a different approach.

In the time since the flooding, I’ve watched communities near and far come together to help in the relief efforts whether through donating supplies and money, preparing meals or gutting buildings. The response is enough to make anyone’s heart swell.

The reality is that our community has survived a natural disaster. It hasn’t been easy and won’t be for a time, but together we will recover and rebuild our city.

Photo by Sean Gasser.


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