Brad Houston  /  NBC News
Alonza Moore stands inside the Katrina-ravaged home he is still struggling to rebuild. No Mardi Gras parades went through the desolate neighborhood of New Orleans East, where he used to live.
By Producer
NBC News
updated 3/1/2006 6:44:53 PM ET 2006-03-01T23:44:53

The trees along St. Charles Street are still dressed up in beads that glitter against the sun. Parade throws, cups and tons of trash, the sad leftovers of Mardi Gras, still line the streets.

Tourists line up in front of their hotels, sunglasses on and suitcases in hand. It's time to say goodbye to the Big Easy.

But for those living in the most damaged areas of New Orleans, Mardi Gras came and went, and nothing changed.

No parades here
No parades went through the desolate neighborhood of New Orleans East, where Alonza Moore used to live.

"You got one side of the city functioning and the other side of the city is dead,” said Moore.

He lives and works in Shreveport now, but he came home to see his house of 25 years.

"I feel like I am lost trying to figure out what to do," he said, crying. "I've been here all my life, this is all I know. I don’t wanna be anywhere else. I will come back. I don't know how long it's gonna take, but I will be back."

Uncertain future
Thousands of displaced Katrina victims feel like Moore.

Without a clear plan for the city's rebuilding, he is not sure if or how he should rebuild his house. He can't afford to fix his house and later be told that it needs to be raised, or worst yet, that his neighborhood is not coming back.

"If you get four or five houses on this block — is that enough?” asked Moore. “Or are they gonna tell you, ‘We don't have enough people on this block to sustain this block.' So everything I tried to do to the house was for nothing!"

As Moore wiped away his tears, he said he never cries, but this is just too much for him. His wife and 15-year-old daughter stayed in Shreveport for this visit, and it's hard to make that five-hour trip back and forth to New Orleans. "Trying to keep the pressure off my family, trying to take it all myself," he said.

Brad Houston  /  NBC News
"Will my house be finished before my FEMA trailer is ready?" asked Roger Harris outside his home in New Orleans.

Trailer, but no electricity
A few blocks away, Roger Harris, 64, washed his car in front of his empty house. His shiny white FEMA trailer is one of many on his block, a common site nowadays.

"It's not a happy time for me," said Harris.

He has had his trailer since Nov. 19, but it's no use to him because he has no power. So he and his wife are living with family, not exactly where they wanted to be six months after Katrina.

"Will my house be finished before my FEMA trailer is ready?" Harris asked. "I'm really disgusted and tired."

He said he wished that the tourists who came to New Orleans would tour his neighborhood, not just the French Quarter. This year, even though he loves Mardi Gras, he didn't feel like celebrating.

"It's just too much for me to bear right now."

First home-cooked meal
In the Gentilly neighborhood, Margaret Tolliver thought Mardi Gras was a waste of money. Money that would have been better spent on the city's residents.

"When will we get the help we need to come back home? It's a whole lot of people that's really hurting," said Tolliver.

Still, she is one of the lucky ones. Tolliver got her trailer in November, but she also got power last week and was able to cook up her first pork chops and rice over the weekend.

She has been paying $15 a day for the generator to run the trailer. "It really was a battle to get the electricity. I had to keep calling and every time that I would call there was a different excuse," she said.

She plans to tear down her home and build a new one. She proudly showed off her blueprints, even though her Small Business Administration loan has not come through yet and she has no money to pay a contractor.

Nothing moves fast here she says. "It's been six months, we still have trash hanging around, we still have abandoned cars and most of the streets are not on."

She doesn't think the local and federal government are doing enough to rebuild. "In order to get people back, you have to have something for them to come back to," Tolliver said.

Still home
Meanwhile, as the trash trucks clean up the remnants of wild times in Bourbon Street, Tolliver hopes that the revelers who leave with bags of beads don't forget that there are people in New Orleans living day by day.

"This is home. … To someone else it's a pile of junk, but to us it's a home."

Maria Eugenia Alcon is an NBC News producer on assignment in New Orleans.


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