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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 13:13 GMT
Gulf Coast road trip: Part 2
Rhonda
Rhonda Buie - a member of the BBC's US voters' panel - is travelling to communities on the US Gulf Coast to see how they are rebuilding their lives, five months after Hurricane Katrina.

This is the second in a series of pieces she is sending from the region.

ROAD TO SLIDELL, LOUISIANA

My next stop was Northshore High School, near Slidell.

I attended this school while living here, and was visiting Kathleen Deshotel, the school's English teacher.

She expressed to me her concerns about attitudes of the local and national community, post-Katrina.

Sign on notice board in Northshore High School
Some have tried to see a humorous side to Katrina's aftermath
Slidell, because of taking on so many residents from places around the parish like Chalmette, has become overcrowded, she said.

Drivers have become ruder, as have neighbours.

The rest of the country showed, as far as she was concerned, a lack of concern toward Katrina victims.

It showed in the ways Katrina evacuees were being shown as dangerous and the cause of rising crime rates wherever they went. It showed in the '57 seconds' attributed to Katrina victims in Bush's State of the Union speech.

It showed in Fema's ill-handling of events and needless, continued problems.

It showed in the lack of compensation she and her family received, as well as all the others in the same situation. It showed in political infighting among the city, parish, state, and federal authorities.

Her question was: "What happened to the benevolent society?"

Stress and danger

After sharing with me her stories of coming home after Katrina, she gave me the idea of typing a survey for her students to fill out regarding their own reconstruction experiences.

The results were mixed, but mostly as I expected.

Jade Thanars
It's going to be rough here for a while
Slidell student Jade Thanars

Some families stayed during Katrina, some had no damage to their homes.

Others slept three or more families to a house. Jobs were lost. Many of them had helped others clean up or move out.

Many were stressed about most things they had to deal with, like not getting enough rest, no space, no privacy, washing dishes with water hoses in the yard, and work crews living with them in their homes.

One girl said she would not be able to go to college because her college savings had to be spent on rebuilding.

Some families were fighting as a result of money problems and having to live in one or two small rooms or a tiny Fema trailer.

Insurance money was difficult to get. Rebuilding was slow. They had exceedingly negative views of current federal leadership.

Damaged roadside businesses
Many roadside businesses lie damaged and derelict
One thing stood out for me, though: The females of the class were intimidated by some of the contract workers because they made passes at them, their sisters and their mothers.

Some felt that all of the various workers in town made walking anywhere in the evening and at night suddenly very dangerous. Some felt going anywhere anymore was dangerous.

It hadn't occurred to me that they would feel this way. But it also hadn't occurred to me that the sudden influx of people would bring such problems.

Aching for change

One of the students spoke to me about her problems.

Jade Thanars, a dance team member and media student, jumped at the chance to talk on camera about how difficult life in Slidell has become.

She told me that problems stem from the fact that there is very little to do in Slidell any more. Businesses are closing down and crime is getting worse.

It's starting to really wear on people, she said.

Roadside debris
Downed trees and debris remain untouched in affected areas
Next, I visited the classroom of my former art teacher, Mrs Bandera.

She told me about her own rebuilding experiences, which included a very nasty encounter with both of her neighbours over an incident with sand.

She is preparing to move to Picayune, Mississippi, after her house is repaired. She and her family are living in two Fema trailers outside of their house.

Some administrative staff told me the school was still missing about 300 students.

The general outlook is that nothing is really happening on a large scale.

The people are restless and aching to see change. All people see in terms of rebuilding is a house here, or a finished business there.

But it all seems to be so disorganised.

The world can wait

I have had local talk radio on in the car while I'm driving.

Map
There seem to be so many local issues that the rest of the world can wait.

People call in expressing frustration and anger over Bush's '57 seconds'.

They also constantly vent about the lack of action on the part of the local authorities.

I have decided that I will not listen to talk radio any more on this trip - it's making me depressed.






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